Nature’s Second Inheritance System

BBSRC

significance chimpanzees Meerkats networks
monkeys Culture in fish? humans New Caledonian Crows

It’s easy to think of human culture as uniquely isolating us from nature and basic evolutionary processes. Our BBSRC-sponsored research has instead revealed cultural processes of varying complexity in primates, birds and fish.

Observational and experimental studies have identified cultural differences across different wild populations and conformity of immigrants to local group habits. Controlled experiments with captive populations seeded alternative foraging techniques in different groups and mapped the diffusion of these techniques to create local traditions.

Our discoveries highlight a potent new ‘second inheritance system’ in animals, illuminate human cultural evolution, and have further implications for welfare and conservation.

Animal Cultures Collaborators:

  • Prof Andrew Whiten
    Wardlaw Professor of Psychology, University of St Andrews
  • Prof Kevin Laland
    Professor of Biology, University of St Andrews
  • Dr Luke Rendell
    Lecturer, University of St Andrews
  • Dr Christian Rutz
    Reader in Biology, BBSRC David Phillips Fellow, University of St Andrews
  • Dr Alex Thornton
    BBSRC David Phillips Fellow, University of Exeter
  • Dr Lewis Dean
    Postdoctoral Fellow, University of St Andrews
  • Dr Elizabeth (Bess) Price
    Lecturer, Newcastle University
  • Mr Steve Smart
    Information Designer, University of St Andrews
  • Ms Alaina Macri MSc
    Senior Education Officer, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
  • Mr Stephen Woollard MSc
    Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
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