May 23, 2019

Chimpanzees Have Culture. Humans Are Destroying It.

“Just like humans, chimpanzees have local traditions. Neighboring chimp communities in Uganda, for instance, rely on different tools to extract honey from fallen logs; some use sticks, while others use chewed-up leaves to sop up the sweet stuff. Scientists have observed a slew of other behaviors that they believe to be “cultural,” meaning that these behaviors are population-specific and acquired through social learning: nut cracking, using tools to fish for algae or termites, loudly ripping leaves from branches, throwing stones at predators or intruders. But as Michael Marshall reports for New Scientist, a recent study has found that in the face of human encroachment, chimp culture is disappearing.

For their sobering investigation, researchers tracked 31 chimpanzee behaviors in 144 distinct communities, according to their study published in Science. The bulk of the data was pulled from existing literature, but 46 communities were observed by the Pan African Programme, which studies behavioral diversity in chimpanzee populations. To avoid disturbing the animals, researchers followed them from afar—via cameras, by searching for tools during “reconnaissance” surveys and by searching the chimps’ poop for traces of foods that can only be obtained through tool use. The team also measured human influences, like infrastructure, population density and forest cover reduction.

The results of the study were striking. The researcher found that chimps living in areas with a “high degree of human impact” were 88 percent less likely to display any of the 31 behaviors than chimps residing in regions with the lowest degree of human impact. “However we divided up the data, we got the same very obvious pattern,” Ammie Kalan, study co-author and primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, tells Ed Yong of the the Atlantic.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"The results were surprising. The center-right coalition, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, remained in power against the opposition Labor party, which had led in every poll for years."

"Anger seldom works against Trump; he owns the currency and can always issue more of it. In addressing the rogue President directly, or speaking about him in the third person, Pelosi usually adopts a tone that is more sorrowful than angry..."

"I am Mizrahi, as are the majority of Jews in Israel today. We are of Middle Eastern and North African descent. Only about 30% of Israeli Jews are Ashkenazi, or the descendants of European Jews."

"Kids are exposed to plenty of controversial social issues on a daily basis. And if parents don’t want their kids to watch “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” they can turn off the TV."

"Are public-school teachers really underpaid? It’s a claim often made during teacher pay disputes, but the same data and statistical methods that produce the “teacher salary gap” lead to some ridiculous conclusions..."

"Tech companies are getting into the business of making cities. We need to stop Silicon Valley social engineering before things get even worse."

"Having a Library or Cafe Down the Block Could Change Your Life: Living close to public amenities—from parks to grocery stores—increases trust, decreases loneliness, and restores faith in local government."

"“What name . . . shall we give to the darkness of hell...?” The question of how we can name a place such as this is at the center of scholar Scott G. Bruce’s new anthology The Penguin Book of Hell."

"She had all six of her kids — ages 5, 4, 2 (twins) and 10 months (also twins!) in her 10-seater van. To get the kids a quick snack, Curry parked in front of the Cobbler’s Café."

"Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they grew up typically eating dinner at a kitchen table, but a little less than half said they do so now when eating at home."

"If you tied a rope tight around the Earth’s equator and then added a single yard of slack, would the extra material make any noticeable difference to someone standing on the ground?"

"While American Jewish women face attacks on our freedom and rising anti-Semitism, abortion opponents are appropriating Jewish history in order to push an agenda that hurts women."