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Author Topic: Is there any such thing as animal "culture" ?  (Read 3773 times)

Offline stevewillie

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Is there any such thing as animal "culture" ?
« on: 22/02/2009 23:10:48 »
It's common knowledge that animals removed from the wild at a young age will not survive if returned to the wild at a later age even if they remain healthy. This is particularly true of mammals. Mammals must be allowed to absorb the 'culture' of their species. I've never heard the word 'culture' used this way, but it seems appropriate. It seems the higher up the evolutionary scale, the greater the role of culture in survival. If this is the case, than genetics appears to play a diminishing role in survival and therefore the direction of evolution. Any views on this?       
« Last Edit: 02/03/2009 08:31:43 by chris »


 

Offline daveshorts

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Re: Is there any such thing as animal "culture" ?
« Reply #1 on: 23/02/2009 11:10:14 »
There are certainly cultures in a variety of mammals. Some groups of chimps (or was it bonobos?) hunt ants by poking sticks in anthills, there seem to be two groups of killer whales one lot which hunt fish and the other lot hunt seals. This seems to be a cultural difference at the moment (although it may end up splitting the species in the long run. There has been some work done on birds having different dialects in their song depending on where in the country they are etc.

So yes I think that sophisticated mammals do have culture if you define it as an inherited behaviour which isn't genetic and varies around a species.
 

Offline LeeE

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Re: Is there any such thing as animal "culture" ?
« Reply #2 on: 23/02/2009 20:43:36 »
It's common knowledge that animals removed from the wild at a young age will not survive if returned to the wild at a later age even if they remain healthy.

I'm afraid that common knowledge gets it wrong, once again.  While there are frequently problems it is not always the case.  In addition to quite a few re-introduction programs where animals are bred in captivity specifically to be released back in to the wild, many animals that have been bred in captivity manage to escape, and subsequently thrive in the wild, with a surprisingly high frequency.
 

Offline stevewillie

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Re: Is there any such thing as animal "culture" ?
« Reply #3 on: 23/02/2009 21:56:48 »
There are certainly cultures in a variety of mammals. Some groups of chimps (or was it bonobos?) hunt ants by poking sticks in anthills, there seem to be two groups of killer whales one lot which hunt fish and the other lot hunt seals. This seems to be a cultural difference at the moment (although it may end up splitting the species in the long run. There has been some work done on birds having different dialects in their song depending on where in the country they are etc.

So yes I think that sophisticated mammals do have culture if you define it as an inherited behaviour which isn't genetic and varies around a species.

Yes. I'm thinking of culture as any learned behavior. Domestic dogs reflect human culture to a large extent. They would not fit in very well with truly wild dogs such as dingos, although they might be able to adapt to the street life of feral dogs. My basic question is: To what extent do evolutionary biologists take culture into account? Culture is not communicated through genes. Richard Dawkins uses the concept of "memes" to explain this kind of communication. What interests me is that I don't think cultural adaptations can be explained by random genetic mutations although a selection process clearly still operates. Cultural selection would probably involve a certain amount of intentional action such as to find new habitats or to modify diets.
« Last Edit: 23/02/2009 22:05:50 by stevewillie »
 

blakestyger

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Re: Is there any such thing as animal "culture" ?
« Reply #4 on: 24/02/2009 13:14:32 »
There has been some work done on birds having different dialects in their song depending on where in the country they are etc.

I've witnessed this first-hand; the greenfinches in Norway sounded very different from the ones in the UK. If I hadn't seen them calling I would not have recognised them.
 

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Re: Is there any such thing as animal "culture" ?
« Reply #4 on: 24/02/2009 13:14:32 »

 

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