Animal Cultures

Core Discoveries and New Horizons

Core discoveries

Seventy years ago, ‘culture’ was assumed to be a distinctive and unique attribute of our own species. Then reports began to emerge of animals from songbirds to Japanese monkeys displaying what appeared to be socially transmitted cultural traditions.

Over the years the study of such animal cultures has burgeoned, accumulating exponentially decade by decade. There is now a wealth of empirical evidence for cultural phenomena in a growing array of species.

What we have discovered about animal cultures is fascinating in its own right, but is increasingly recognized to have diverse and important implications for understanding the origins of our own human capacity for culture, for evolutionary biology more generally, and for animal conservation.

New horizons

Animal Cultures – Core Discoveries and New Horizons is an online module offering an introductory overview of the field, presented by many of its leading experts and researchers.

The module will meet the needs of students of any age who have discovered an interest in the field but have no local access to such a course. Passing an assessment based on the lectures and readings gives a certificate of course completion.

We also hope that students taking other similar courses at their institution may like to dip into selected lectures, and perhaps their tutors might find it useful to encourage this and follow it with related class discussion. And we hope the module will also attract members of the public fascinated by the discoveries we present.

The entire module is open access and free.

Sponsors

One of seven online teaching modules sponsored by the Cultural Evolution Society through the generous support of the John Templeton Foundation.

 

 

 

Faculty

Leading researchers in the field
Lucy Aplin

Lucy Aplin

Max Planck Institute for Animal Behaviour, Germany

Culum Brown

Culum Brown

Macquarie University
Australia

Nicolas Claidière

Nicolas Claidière

CNRS, Aix-Marseille University, France

Étienne Danchin

Étienne Danchin

CNRS, Université de Toulouse, France

Rachel Kendal

Rachel Kendal

University of Durham
UK

Luke Rendell

Luke Rendell

University of St Andrews, UK

Alex Thornton

Alex Thornton

University of Exeter
UK

Erica van de Waal

Erica van de Waal

University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Hal Whitehead

Hal Whitehead

Dalhousie University
Canada

Andy Whiten

Andy Whiten

University of St Andrews, UK

Lectures

An introductory overview of the field

The lectures which make up Animal Cultures – New Horizons use a wide diversity of presentation formats and styles.  You will also experience variations in some of the distinctions and conceptualisations preferred, such as in the very criteria for ‘culture’ and ‘cultural evolution’. We think this is simply representative of the field as a whole – these are issues for you to think about, and if possible discuss with others participating in the module.’

Overview

Overview

Andy Whiten

 

 

Social learning processes

Social learning processes

Alex Thornton

How do animals learn from others?

 

Social learning strategies

Social learning strategies

Rachel Kendal

Adaptive learning biases.

 

Major study groups

Major study groups

Erica van de Waal

Primates and other terrestrial mammals.

 

Major study groups

Major study groups

Luke Rendell

Whales and dolphins.

 

Major study groups

Major study groups

Lucy Aplin

Birds.

 

Major study groups

Major study groups

Culum Brown

Fish.

 

Major study groups

Major study groups

Étienne Danchin

Insects.

 

Cumulative cultural evolution in animals?

Cumulative cultural evolution in animals?

Nicolas Claidière

Implications for the evolution of human culture

Implications for the evolution of human culture

Andy Whiten

Implications for ecology and evolution

Implications for ecology and evolution

Lucy Aplin

Implications for evolutionary biology

Implications for evolutionary biology

Étienne Danchin

Implications for conservation and welfare

Implications for conservation and welfare

Hal Whitehead

More

Reading list, assessment, and more

Reading Lists

Readings are listed by lecture for the whole module.

Note that the Assessment covers both lectures and core readings.

Assessment

In order to gain a Certificate of Completion, a student must take an online test including 20 multiple choice questions drawn from a large bank of alternatives. Assessment covers both lectures and core readings.

A score of 80% or higher will allow students to download a Certificate of Completion for the module.

The assessment process is currently in development, and the assessment option is not available  at present.

More