Mon, Nov 05, 2007 - Page 15 News List

Culture exists among chimpanzees 黑猩猩的文化

Two chimpanzees at Taronga Zoo, Sydney, Australia, Sep. 22, 2007.


Chimpanzees are the only animals, other than humans, that learn certain cultural behaviors - such as grooming, hunting or how to crack open nuts -- from those around them, according to a study.

Culture is defined by scientists as a set of socially-learned behaviors that differ between populations. Because the behavior is learned from a local group, individual populations may carry out the same task differently.

"Culture has long been considered to be not only unique to humans, but also responsible for making us different from all other forms of life," wrote researchers, led by Stephen Lycett of the University of Liverpool. "In recent years, however, researchers studying chimpanzees have challenged this idea. Natural populations of chimpanzees have been found to vary greatly in their behavior."

Many animals learn skills from their parents or peers but none of it is considered a cultural ability because it is usually limited to one activity. Chimpanzees, however, have demonstrated almost 40 different activities that seem to be learned and which differ between populations.

Studies of chimpanzees in eastern and western Africa show that some use only stone tools to crack nuts open while others use both wooden and stone tools.

Dr. Lycett and his team made a genetic family tree of the different groups of chimpanzees from eastern and western Africa and correlated it with the animals' behavior. The team found that the small differences in genes between groups could not account for behavioral differences.

"Our results support the suggestion that the behavioral patterns are the product of social learning and, therefore, can be considered cultural," wrote Dr. Lycett. (The Guardian)


Harry: How was your trip to Thailand?

Sam: Great, but I still can't make heads or tails of Thai culture.

Harry: Why not?

Sam: The average Thai is very conservative and religious, but parts of their society are more open than almost anything I've seen in America.

Harry: I think you'd have to live there to really get a handle on the culture.






To make heads or tails of something means to understand that thing. It's almost always used in the negative. For example, "Pierre spent three weeks in America but he still can't make heads or tails of the culture."

對某事「make heads or tails」表示了解這件事情〞俄個片語絕大部分用字否定用法,例如:「皮耶爾在美國呆了三個禮拜,但是他對美國文化仍然一頭霧水。」











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