>> Monday, October 26, 2009
Our lovely cousins, the chimpanzees, have been in the news a bit recently. One article, however, really caught my eye. Researchers studying neighboring chimpanzee populations in Uganda found that different groups approached similar problems with different tools.
The problem was getting honey from inside a log. One group from Kibale Forest used sticks to get at the honey. A group from Budongo Forest used leaf sponges- absorbent wedges made from chewed up leaves. One scientist said the following as explanation:
The most reasonable explanation for this difference in tool use was that chimpanzees resorted to preexisting cultural knowledge in trying to solve the novel task. Culture, in other words, helped them in dealing with a novel problem.
Here, keep in mind, they use a really simple to understand basis of culture. Webster's defines culture as:
1. the ideas, customs, skills, arts, etc. of a people or group, that are transferred, communicated, or passed along, as in or to succeeding generationsUsing this definition, it's easy to see why we can relate the use of certain tools (a skill passed down through generations) as a cultural difference. You can read more about the experiment here.
2. such ideas, customs, etc. of a particular people or group in a particular period; civilization
3. the particular people or group having such ideas, customs, etc.
Don't forget: The Donor's Choose Challenge is going on 'til the end of October. Make a difference in school children's lives.