Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Grass-in-the-ear' technique sets new trend in chimp etiquette: Chimpanzees spontaneously copy arbitrary behavior

Date:
July 3, 2014
Source:
Springer Science+Business Media
Summary:
Chimpanzees are copycats and, in the process, they form new traditions that are often particular to only one specific group of these primates. Such are the findings of an international group of scientists, who waded through over 700 hours of video footage to understand how it came about that one chimpanzee stuck a piece of grass in her ear and started a new trend, and others soon followed suit.

One chimpanzee stuck a piece of grass in her ear and started a new trend, and others soon followed suit.
Credit: Image courtesy of Springer Science+Business Media

Chimpanzees are copycats and, in the process, they form new traditions that are often particular to only one specific group of these primates. Such are the findings of an international group of scientists, who waded through over 700 hours of video footage to understand how it came about that one chimpanzee stuck a piece of grass in her ear and started a new trend, and others soon followed suit. The findings of the study, led by Edwin van Leeuwen of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in The Netherlands, are published in Springer's journal Animal Cognition.

In 2010, van Leeuwen first noticed how a female chimp named Julie repeatedly put a stiff, strawlike blade of grass for no apparent reason in one or both of her ears. She left it there even when she was grooming, playing or resting in Zambia's Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust sanctuary. On subsequent visits, van Leeuwen saw that other chimpanzees in her group had started to do the same.

This aroused his interest to find out if they copied what Julie did by watching and learning from her through so-called social learning. The research team, including Zambians who monitor the chimpanzees daily, collected and analyzed 740 hours of footage that had been shot during the course of a year of 94 chimpanzees living in four different social groups in the sanctuary. Only two of these groups could see one another.

The research team found that only one of the four groups regularly performed this so-called "grass-in-the-ear" behavior. In one other group one chimpanzee once did the same. Eight of the twelve chimpanzees in Julie's group repeatedly did so. The first to copy her was her son, Jack, followed by Kathy, Miracle and Val with whom she regularly interacted. Generally at least two of the chimps put grass in their ear at the same time. Interestingly, the chimpanzees Kathy and Val kept up the custom even after Julie, the original inventor of this behavior, died.

The observations show that there's nothing random about individual chimpanzees sticking grass into their ears. They spontaneously copied the arbitrary behavior from a group member. Chimpanzees have a tendency to learn from one another -- clearly a case of "monkey see, monkey do" in fact. Van Leeuwen suggests that those animals that find a specific behavior somehow rewarding will continue to do so on their own, even if the chimpanzee they have learned it from is no longer around.

"This reflects chimpanzees' proclivity to actively investigate and learn from group members' behaviors in order to obtain biologically relevant information," says van Leeuwen. "The fact that these behaviors can be arbitrary and outlast the originator speaks to the cultural potential of chimpanzees."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Springer Science+Business Media. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Edwin J. C. van Leeuwen, Katherine A. Cronin, Daniel B. M. Haun. A group-specific arbitrary tradition in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Animal Cognition, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s10071-014-0766-8

Cite This Page:

Springer Science+Business Media. "'Grass-in-the-ear' technique sets new trend in chimp etiquette: Chimpanzees spontaneously copy arbitrary behavior." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140703102612.htm>.
Springer Science+Business Media. (2014, July 3). 'Grass-in-the-ear' technique sets new trend in chimp etiquette: Chimpanzees spontaneously copy arbitrary behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140703102612.htm
Springer Science+Business Media. "'Grass-in-the-ear' technique sets new trend in chimp etiquette: Chimpanzees spontaneously copy arbitrary behavior." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140703102612.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) The drop in price of soy on the international market is a cause for concern in Argentina, as soybean exports are a major source of income for Latin America's third largest economy. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) A mama bear and her two cubs climb trees, wrestle and take naps in the backyard of a Monrovia, California home. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) Once upon a time, farming was a blissfully low-tech business on Colombia's northern plains. Duration: 02:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins