Food cleaning in gorillas: Social learning is a possibility but not a necessity

Neadle, Damien and Allritz, Matthias and Tennie, Claudio (2017) Food cleaning in gorillas: Social learning is a possibility but not a necessity. PLOS ONE, 12 (12). ISSN 1932-6203

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Abstract

Food cleaning is widespread in the animal kingdom, and a recent report confirmed that (amongst other behaviours) wild western lowland gorillas also show food cleaning. The authors of this report conclude that this behaviour, based on its distribution patterns, constitutes a potential candidate for culture. While different conceptualisations of culture exist, some more and some less reliant on behavioural form copying, all of them assign a special role to social learning processes in explaining potentially cultural behaviours. Here we report the results of an experiment that tested to what extent food cleaning behaviour in a group of captive Western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) relies on social learning processes. Subjects were provided with clean and dirty apples. When they were provided with dirty apples, all subjects showed evidence of food cleaning in at least 75% of trials. Preferred cleaning techniques differed between individuals, four out of five of subjects expressed a behaviour analogous to that reported in wild conspecifics. Given this occurrence of food cleaning in a culturally unconnected population of gorillas, we conclude that social learning is unlikely to play a central role in the emergence of the food cleaning behavioural form in Western lowland gorillas; instead, placing a greater emphasis on individual learning of food cleaning’s behavioural form.

Item Type: Article
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0188866
Date: 4 December 2017
Subjects: C100 Biology
C300 Zoology
C800 Psychology
L600 Anthropology
Divisions: Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences > Dept. Psychology
REF UoA Output Collections > REF2021 UoA 04: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience
Depositing User: Damien Neadle
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2019 14:50
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2019 14:50
URI: http://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/8096

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