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Primates. 2009 Jan;50(1):23-36. doi: 10.1007/s10329-008-0109-y. Epub 2009 Jan 10.

Emergence, propagation or disappearance of novel behavioral patterns in the habituated chimpanzees of Mahale: a review.

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Japan Monkey Centre, Inuyama, Aichi, Japan,


Each local population of chimpanzees shows cultural variation, but little is known about how behavioral variations first emerge, and how often variants spread to other individuals and then become fixed as a local culture in chimpanzee society. Although field studies of chimpanzees are still too short to answer these questions definitively, it may stimulate further study in various sites to summarize the developments observed over the past 40 years at Mahale, Tanzania. Innovative patterns were operationally defined as new behavioral patterns performed by M group chimpanzees from 1981 onwards. Innovations included patterns of feeding (n = 8), human-directed behavior (n = 3), hygiene behavior (n = 4), maternal carrying of infants (n = 2), courtship (n = 2), play (n = 6), intimidation displays (n = 3), and quasi-grooming (n = 4). Although most patterns were repeated later by other individuals, six patterns were never seen performed by another individual, and eight patterns were performed by one or a few individuals but social transmission was unlikely. Thus, innovation was not rare, but emergence of fashion or establishment of traditions seems to occur rarely in chimpanzee society.

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