RE: USA Today - interview with Gugatkin and de Waal on animal cul ture

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Fri Jun 08 2001 - 11:15:42 BST

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    Subject: RE: USA Today - interview with Gugatkin and de Waal on animal cul ture
    Date: Fri, 8 Jun 2001 11:15:42 +0100 
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    Lovely quote from de Waal in this article.

    I can hear it now 'If I could fly higher than a chicken...'

    Both of these books, which I believe others have mentioned on the list, I've
    seen good reviews of, and must get around to getting.

    When I daydream about what subject I'd do if not the current one I work in,
    I usually put archaeology and paleontology at the top of the list, but
    ethology is creeping up on me. Bit of a pipe dream, particularly since my
    experimental skills in all sciences at school confounded nature. I remember
    one experiment that I was doing as part of my GCSE Biology coursework where
    osmosis simply didn't happen. Now I think about it, I also had problems in
    my physics experiments at school, particularly those ones where you are
    testing things like acceleration and velocity. Looking back I wonder how
    inept one has to be to produce experimental results that confound even the
    most basic processes in nature...


    > ----------
    > From: Ray Recchia
    > Reply To:
    > Sent: Friday, June 8, 2001 12:47 am
    > To:
    > Subject: USA Today - interview with Gugatkin and de Waal on animal
    > culture
    > Article in USA today on Tuesday
    > For the European crowd, USA today is a nationally distributed newspaper
    > with
    > rougly the same popularity as CNN.
    > htm
    > By Tim Friend, USA TODAY
    > Louisville Courier-Journal
    > Lee Dugatkin, a professor at the University of
    > Louisville,
    > has shown that dating habits can be similar to behavior of the simplest
    > fish.
    > Let's get something straight. Humans and animals are much more
    > similar than scholars have led us to believe, and we share at least two
    > fundamental aspects of behavior that have been used for centuries to
    > define
    > our differences and thus our humanity: culture and learning.
    > Animal culture and the transmission of cultural behaviors from
    > one generation to the next - known as cultural transmission - are still
    > hotly contested ideas. Two recent books, The Ape and Sushi Master (Basic
    > Books) by Frans de Waal and The Imitation Factor (Free Press) by Lee
    > Dugatkin, support the pro-animal-culture side of the debate.
    > For those humans who find comparisons with animals offensive,
    > rest easy. None of the beasts running around outdoors can write poetry or
    > plays, paint masterpieces that hang in museums or dine with fine cutlery.
    > But our differences, as Charles Darwin pointed out more than 100 years
    > ago,
    > are differences of degree and not of kind.
    > Dugatkin, a professor of behavioral ecology at the University
    > of
    > Louisville, and de Waal, a primatologist at Emory University in Atlanta,
    > provide powerful evidence for the existence of culture and cultural
    > transmission in animals. Some of the evidence stems from their own
    > research,
    > but they also include the major findings by others in their field over the
    > past 40 years.
    > "The question of whether animals have culture is a bit like
    > whether chickens can fly," de Waal says. "Compared to an albatross or
    > falcon, perhaps not. But chickens do have wings, they do flap them, and
    > they
    > do get up in the trees. Now imagine a world devoid of flying creatures
    > except for the chicken. We would probably be mightily impressed, writing
    > poems and songs about how we wished to be like them."
    > De Waal uses the albatross/chicken comparison to illustrate
    > the
    > differences between human culture with our masterpieces of art, literature
    > and cuisine, and animal culture with its simpler traditions - different
    > methods of fishing for termites among chimpanzees from different troops,
    > for
    > instance, and different ways of grooming.
    > A broader definition
    > Humans have defined themselves by culture for thousands of
    > years.
    > Among Webster's dictionary's definitions of culture: "the integrated
    > pattern
    > of knowledge, belief and behavior that depends on man's capacity for
    > learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations."
    > The strictest definition includes the ability to use a spoken
    > and written language and teaching as a means of transmitting knowledge,
    > beliefs and behaviors. That one would certainly keep animals barred from
    > the
    > culture club, but most biologists accept a broader definition, de Waal and
    > Dugatkin say.
    > "There is growing evidence for animal culture - most of it
    > hidden in field notes and technical reports - that deserves to be more
    > widely known," de Waal says. "Culture simply means that knowledge and
    > habits
    > are acquired from others - often, but not always from the older generation
    > -
    > which explains why two groups of the same species may behave differently."
    > The title of his book refers to the fact that animals, like
    > humans, learn from each other by close observation. The sushi apprentice
    > in
    > Japan performs menial tasks in the master's kitchen for several years but
    > never touches fish. At the end of the observation period, the apprentice
    > is
    > expected to prepare sushi as perfectly as his master.
    > De Waal says he also hopes to dispel Western society's notion
    > that culture is the opposite of human nature. The old philosophers
    > believed
    > that culture allowed humans to rise above their animalistic nature. De
    > Waal
    > says that Asians believe in a greater continuity between animals and
    > humans
    > and don't debate the existence of animal culture.
    > One classic example of animal culture is potato washing by
    > Japanese macaques on Koshima Island. In 1952, scientists began feeding
    > sweet
    > potatoes to the monkeys so they could watch the animals' social behavior.
    > The potatoes were cut in pieces and tossed on the ground. Even monkeys
    > don't
    > like sand, so they usually tried rubbing it off with their hands.
    > One day, a juvenile female named Imo took her sandy potatoes
    > to
    > the water's edge and washed them clean. By 1958, potato washing had been
    > adopted by 14 of 15 juveniles and two of 11 adults. These monkeys have all
    > since died, but the macaques at Koshima Island continue washing potatoes
    > today. Since the behavior was transmitted through observation rather than
    > genetics, it is cultural, Dugatkin says.
    > Non-human animals imitate
    > One of the chief ways cultural information is transmitted in
    > humans is through imitation. Any parent knows too well that children
    > imitate
    > adult behavior. In the third century B.C., Aristotle wrote: "Imitation is
    > natural to man from childhood, one of his advantages over the lower
    > animals
    > being this, that he is the most imitative creature in the world, and
    > learns
    > at first by imitation."
    > "Aristotle was wrong, at least for the most part, about the
    > ability of non-human animals to imitate. It was a big oversight," Dugatkin
    > says. Results of Dugatkin's experiments with lowly guppies indicate
    > imitation is a far-flung behavior in the animal kingdom.
    > It's no secret that females and males of our species find
    > certain traits in the opposite sex more attractive than others. Popularity
    > and good looks often top the list. Studies at the University of Louisville
    > found this to be true in students and also found that if one person wanted
    > to date X, so did others - a phenomenon called date copying.
    > Dugatkin designed an experiment to see if guppy love follows a
    > similar path. As a rule, female guppies prefer to mate with bright-orange
    > males. The preference is determined by guppies' genes. In Dugatkin's
    > experiment, he placed female guppies in an area of their fish tank where
    > they could observe bright-orange males and dull males at the same time and
    > also see a female making a mate choice. Through a trick with opaque and
    > see-through dividers, the females saw what appeared to be a female
    > selecting
    > a dull-colored male. Surprisingly, the female observers also then chose a
    > dull-colored male, and then overruled their normal instinct to mate with
    > brightly colored males.
    > Mate copying also has been found in other fish species, Japanese
    > quail and small marine animals called isopods. Imitation of many different
    > types of behavior is widespread in the animal kingdom, Dugatkin says.
    > His and de Waal's accounts may just be persuasive enough to
    > convince humans it's finally time to open the door and allow animals into
    > the culture club.
    > ===============================================================
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    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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