Friday, January 03, 2003

NONHUMAN APE CULTURE

Another cultured ape, this time with red hair
Orangutans share behaviour in group Using leaf `napkin' just one example
CAROL KAESUK YOON

NEW YORK—Orangutans, those red-haired knuckle-dragging apes, are loping into the upper echelons of the primate hierarchy.

According to research reported in the journal Science, they exhibit what was until very recently considered a uniquely human attribute: culture....

Other researchers reported four years ago that chimpanzees exhibited widespread cultural differences.

Chimps also differ in the way they groom, hunt, eat and so on.

Scientists say the new work suggests the two remaining great ape species, gorillas and bonobos, are likely to have culture, too, and that great ape culture may date back at least to the origin of the entire group 14 million years ago....

In a classic example, chimpanzees are known to use very different methods for extracting ants from ant nests in eastern and western Africa. But in one new study, researchers reported finding a group of chimpanzees that use either method — depending on how aggressive the ant they are hunting is.

Galef said the finding suggests even this classic chimp cultural divide might have an ecological explanation as simple as the difference in ants available in different areas....