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'Civilised' apes store knowledge and pass it down between generations - just like humans

By ROB WAUGH

The researchers mapped the genomes of orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra

Many people think 'culture' is what divides man from the apes.
But a group of University of Zurich researchers have proved that orangutan societies can learn behaviour and pass it down through the generations, just like human cultures.
Orangutans in different areas of Sumatra and Borneo behave differently - and researchers were puzzled as to why.

But it turns out the differences are not down to genetics - instead, the 'local cultures' are learned and passed down among local groups of apes, similar to how people behave differently in, say, Aberdeen and Plymouth, or New York and Ohio.
The finding hints that the roots of human societies may go back for millions of years.
The roots of our culture could be shared with the roots of ape cultures.

The researchers analysed 100,000 hours of orangutan behaviour and genetically profiled 150 orangutans.
About a decade ago, biologists who had been observing great apes in the wild reported that behaviour 'changed' with geography, in a way that hinted that the apes had cultures that stored and passed on ideas.
The finding triggered an intense debate among scientists.

They researchers analysed 100,000 hours of behavioral data, created genetic profiles for over 150 wild orangutans and measured ecological differences between ape 'societies' using satellite imagery and advanced remote sensing techniques.

They found that the differences between groups of apes cannot be explaiend genetically.
‘It looks as if the ability to act culturally is dictated by the long life expectancy of apes and the necessity to be able to adapt to changing environmental conditions,’ explains Kr├╝tzen, lead author of a paper in Current Biology.
‘Now we know that the roots of human culture go much deeper than previously thought. Human culture is built on a solid foundation that is many millions of years old and is shared with the other great apes.’

source: dailymail