Primate Culture

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It has been believed that culture is unique to humans and no other groups of animals have culture, but recent evidence refutes this ideology. Before getting into the meat of the argument, it is important to first address the issues regarding the ambiguity of the term, “culture.” What is culture? Many scientists may argue that culture is the way of life for a group of individuals, this definition includes the values, beliefs and traditions of the group (Sapolsky, 2006). Other scientists may argue that culture is the transmission of habits and information by social means (Sapolsky, 2006). Despite the different specifics of what culture is, almost all scientists would agree that culture is transmitted socially through social learning that promotes the transfer of information between members in a group (Boesch and Tomasello, 1998). Based on these notions of culture, it can be justifiably stated that primates have culture. Primates exhibit food preparation techniques, use of tools, communication skills, and most importantly, behaviors of social learning. An exemplar of primates’ capabilities for culture is Koko, the lowland gorilla. Koko, in captivity, was able to learn American sign language, demonstrate self-awareness and the ability to deceive. Food preparation is a feature of culture that can be seen amongst humans and primates. Humans prepare their food by cooking it as this helps with easier digestion and extraction of nutrients from the food. Although primates do not cook their food, Japanese macaque monkeys have been observed to wash potatoes that are covered with sand prior to eating the potatoes (Boesch, 2003). This behavior not only displays culture amongst the macaque monkeys, it also shows that they have the cognitive a... ... middle of paper ... ... the gorillas are taken away from their family and are living in captivity. It is still important to study primates in-depth, and a solution to the ethical issues may be to breed primates within the conservatory. Works Cited Boesch, C. (2003). Is culture a golden barrier between human and chimpanzee? Evolutionary Anthropology, 12(2), 82-91. Boesch, C., & Tomasello, M. (1998). Chimpanzee and Human Cultures. Current Anthropology, 39(5), 591-604. Patterson, F. G., & Cohn, R. H. (2006). Self-recognition and self-awareness in lowland gorillas. Self-awareness in animals and humans: Developmental perspectives, 273. Perry, S.E.(2006) What Cultural Primatology Can Tell Anthropologists about the Evolution of Culture. Annual Review of Anthropology 35: 171-190. Sapolsky, R. M. (2006). Social cultures among nonhuman primates. Current Anthropology, 47(4), 641-656.

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