Behavioral variation in gorillas: Evidence of potential cultural traits

Martha M. Robbins, Chieko Ando, Katherine A. Fawcett, Cyril C. Grueter, Daniela Hedwig, Yuji Iwata, Jessica L. Lodwick, Shelly Masi, Roberta Salmi, Tara S. Stoinski, Angelique Todd, Veronica Vercellio, Juichi Yamagiwa

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    26 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The question of whether any species except humans exhibits culture has generated much debate, partially due to the difficulty of providing conclusive evidence from observational studies in the wild. A starting point for demonstrating the existence of culture that has been used for many species including chimpanzees and orangutans is to show that there is geographic variation in the occurrence of particular behavioral traits inferred to be a result of social learning and not ecological or genetic influences. Gorillas live in a wide variety of habitats across Africa and they exhibit flexibility in diet, behavior, and social structure. Here we apply the 'method of exclusion' to look for the presence/absence of behaviors that could be considered potential cultural traits in well-habituated groups from five study sites of the two species of gorillas. Of the 41 behaviors considered, 23 met the criteria of potential cultural traits, of which one was foraging related, nine were environment related, seven involved social interactions, five were gestures, and one was communication related. There was a strong positive correlation between behavioral dissimilarity and geographic distance among gorilla study sites. Roughly half of all variation in potential cultural traits was intraspecific differences (i.e. variability among sites within a species) and the other 50% of potential cultural traits were differences between western and eastern gorillas. Further research is needed to investigate if the occurrence of these traits is influenced by social learning. These findings emphasize the importance of investigating cultural traits in African apes and other species to shed light on the origin of human culture.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0160483
    Number of pages18
    JournalPLoS One
    Volume11
    Issue number9
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016

    Fingerprint

    Gorilla gorilla
    Gorilla
    Nutrition
    Communication
    learning
    Pongo
    Gestures
    Pongo pygmaeus
    Pan troglodytes
    Hominidae
    observational studies
    Pongidae
    Interpersonal Relations
    social structure
    geographical variation
    animal communication
    Observational Studies
    Ecosystem
    foraging
    Diet

    Cite this

    Robbins, Martha M. ; Ando, Chieko ; Fawcett, Katherine A. ; Grueter, Cyril C. ; Hedwig, Daniela ; Iwata, Yuji ; Lodwick, Jessica L. ; Masi, Shelly ; Salmi, Roberta ; Stoinski, Tara S. ; Todd, Angelique ; Vercellio, Veronica ; Yamagiwa, Juichi. / Behavioral variation in gorillas : Evidence of potential cultural traits. In: PLoS One. 2016 ; Vol. 11, No. 9.
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    Robbins, MM, Ando, C, Fawcett, KA, Grueter, CC, Hedwig, D, Iwata, Y, Lodwick, JL, Masi, S, Salmi, R, Stoinski, TS, Todd, A, Vercellio, V & Yamagiwa, J 2016, 'Behavioral variation in gorillas: Evidence of potential cultural traits' PLoS One, vol. 11, no. 9, e0160483. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0160483, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal,pone.0160483

    Behavioral variation in gorillas : Evidence of potential cultural traits. / Robbins, Martha M.; Ando, Chieko; Fawcett, Katherine A.; Grueter, Cyril C.; Hedwig, Daniela; Iwata, Yuji; Lodwick, Jessica L.; Masi, Shelly; Salmi, Roberta; Stoinski, Tara S.; Todd, Angelique; Vercellio, Veronica; Yamagiwa, Juichi.

    In: PLoS One, Vol. 11, No. 9, e0160483, 01.09.2016.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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