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CHARTING CULTURAL VARIATION IN CHIMPANZEES

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Cultural variation among chimpanzee communities or unit-groups at nine long-term study sites was charted through a systematic, collaborative procedure in which the directors of the sites first agreed a candidate list of 65 behaviour patterns (here fully defined), then classified each pattern in relation to its local frequency of occurrence. Thirty-nine of the candidate behaviour patterns were discriminated as cultural variants, sufficiently frequent at one or more sites to be consistent with social transmission, yet absent at one or more others where environmental explanations were rejected. Each community exhibited a unique and substantial profile of such variants, far exceeding cultural variation reported before for any other non-human species. Evaluation of these pan-African distributions against three models for the diffusion of traditions identified multiple cases consistent with cultural evolution involving differentiation in form, function and targets of behaviour patterns.

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