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PLoS One. 2010 Mar 24;5(3):e9241. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009241.

The number of cultural traits is correlated with female group size but not with male group size in chimpanzee communities.

Author information

1
Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution, Stockholm, Sweden. johan.lind@zoologi.su.se

Abstract

What determines the number of cultural traits present in chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) communities is poorly understood. In humans, theoretical models suggest that the frequency of cultural traits can be predicted by population size. In chimpanzees, however, females seem to have a particularly important role as cultural carriers. Female chimpanzees use tools more frequently than males. They also spend more time with their young, skewing the infants' potential for social learning towards their mothers. In Gombe, termite fishing has been shown to be transmitted from mother to offspring. Lastly, it is female chimpanzees that transfer between communities and thus have the possibility of bringing in novel cultural traits from other communities. From these observations we predicted that females are more important cultural carriers than males. Here we show that the reported number of cultural traits in chimpanzee communities correlates with the number of females in chimpanzee communities, but not with the number of males. Hence, our results suggest that females are the carriers of chimpanzee culture.

PMID:
20352086
PMCID:
PMC2844409
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0009241
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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