Jason M. Kamilar from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University and Quentin D. Atkinson with the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford in Britain are the first to demonstrate the development of culture in non-human primates in research presented in the Dec. 9, 2013, edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers compared the development of culture between indigenous human populations in North America and New Guinea, the fossil record of human ancestral cultural development, orangutans, and chimpanzees.
The pattern of behavior and the similarity of individual and group behavior that denotes the development of culture was determined to exist in chimpanzees but not in orangutans.
Both human groups and groups of chimpanzees demonstrated the development of a repertoire of behaviors that can be seen as a subset of the overall behavior of larger groups of both species.
The scientists propose that the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees may have begun the development of culture that is documented in the fossil record of early humans and their ancestors. Chimpanzees and humans share a large part of DNA structure that could in part explain the propensity toward the development of culture.
This research is the first documentation of the existence of culture in non-human primates.