According to a new study, chimpanzee learns to use a tool by observing their peers, their behavior is transmitted from individual to individual, according to a research that was published on September 30 in the open access journal PLOS Biology. Scientists had been lucky to record this instance of social behavior for the first time.

“Researchers have been fascinated for decades by the differences in [behavior] between chimpanzee communities; some use tools some don’t, some use different tools for the same job. These [behavioral] variations have been described as ‘cultural’, which in human terms would mean they spread when one individual learns from another; but in most cases they’re long established and it’s hard to know how they originally spread within a group,” said Catherine Hobaiter, Lecturer in Psychology at the University of St Andrews.

Researchers observed how Sonso chimpanzee learned leaf-sponge reuse and moss-sponge reuse by seeing their peer using a leaf sponge as a drinking tool to scoop up water. “Our results provide strong evidence for social transmission along the chimpanzees’ social network, demonstrating that wild chimpanzees learn novel tool-use from each other and support the claim that some of the observed [behavioral] diversity in wild chimpanzees should be interpreted as ‘cultural’,” said William Hoppitt, Senior Lecturer in Zoology at Anglia Ruskin University.

Researchers began analyzing a 29-year-old alpha male chimpanzee, Nick. They observed that Nick made a moss sponge, and seven others in the social group copied the behavior.”Nevertheless, something must have subsequently happened in our evolution that caused a qualitative shift in what we could transmit, rendering our culture much more complex than anything found in wild apes. Understanding this qualitative jump in our evolutionary history is what we need to investigate now,” said Thibaud Gruber, Marie Curie Fellow at the University of Neuchâtel.

The findings were published Sept. 30 in the journal PLOS Biology.

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