animal traditions

There is some interesting research on Meerkats. Basically, some groups sleep in, and others get up late. But this activity can’t be explained by habitat (where their burrow is) or genetics (particularly as new comers get up at the same time as the group). Instead, the explanation of the behavior seems to be highly cultural. As the Kalahari Meerkat Project team argued in Proceedings of the Royal Society, it seems that groups of animals develop patters of behavior on the basis of their own local culture (in this instance, highly local — as we’re talking about burrows quite near one another). These cultures could last for generations. Interesting stuff. Cute pictures hereAlex Thornton led this project, under the larger team of Tim Clutton-Brock.

One thought on “animal traditions”

  1. Neat. Although I haven’t yet read the paper, I am not sure that group level effects preclude individual level genetic effects as a cause. That is, there are genetic propensities for morningness-eveningness preferences in humans, and probably in Meerkats. In a group (of humans or Meerkats) made up of those of a majority of individuals of one preference or another (due perhaps to genetics), it is conceivable that other group members adopt the average preference of the group. Of course, such a genetic effect would not preclude cultural effects and my guess is that a gene-culture co-evolutionary model will be most satisfactory in this case.


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