Navigation Links
Mongoose traditions shed light on evolution of human culture
Date:6/15/2010

A groundbreaking study of banded mongooses in Uganda has shown even small-brained animals pass on traditions, giving a valuable insight into how complex human culture could have evolved.

Scientists from the University of Exeter's School of Biosciences studied five groups of banded mongooses, one of them made famous in the BBC TV series Banded Brothers: The Mongoose Mob. Their pioneering research observed the animals passing on traditions (namely foraging preferences) from one generation to the next, a practice previously thought to be reserved only to humans and the most intellectually advanced animals, such as primates and dolphins.

Dr Corsin Mller, lead author of the study, said the findings showed for the first time that less-advanced animals pass on traditions in the wild, which has important implications for understanding how culture can develop. He said: "We've shown that the basic mechanism for traditions is already found in animals of very average intellect, like mongooses. If they pass on traditions, there's no reason to suspect most other animals wouldn't have traditions too. This is a starting point at which traditions could evolve to become more complex and gives us an insight into how our cultures may have begun. It's a point from which our behaviour could have evolved."

Mongooses are better known for their unique social system which means biological parents contribute little to the raising of their young. Instead pups pick out an adult, such as an older sibling, cousin, or uncle, to be their "escort" through infancy. The pair will then spend most of their time together, with the escort caring for the young pup until it can be independent.

This led Dr Mller to wonder whether the escort was passing on traditions to their pup. Together with Dr Michael Cant, also of the University of Exeter, he devised research which would test the tradition theory by taking advantage of another mongoose trait, namely their varied eating habits.

It's generally known that when eating prey with hard-shells, such as eggs or beetles, mongooses either bite through the outer shell or smash it on a hard surface. Each technique is equally efficient, so it's seen as a preference. Most will stick exclusively to one method, while others may switch between the two.

For the University of Exeter research, the team created an artificial prey consisting of a plastic egg with rice and fish packed inside. By using this, Dr Mller and Dr Cant were able to monitor how 42 banded mongoose pups picked up their approach to this new item from their escorts.

According to the research, escorts stuck to their preferred method of biting or smashing, while a handful completely ignored the plastic eggs with their preference being observed by the pups. Two months later, when the escort relationship had ended and the pups were fending for themselves, the youngsters generally followed the biting, smashing or ignoring behaviour they picked up from their escort. Even one year on, the smashers and the biters continued to preferentially display the learned behaviour.

Dr Mller added: "Our research adds to growing evidence that features which were long thought to be uniquely human actually are found, in basic forms, in animals. This is not only in our closest relatives, but even in an unspectacular animal like mongooses.

"This doesn't make humans any less special, but it does give us an insight into how our own peculiar behaviour could come about. Humans are still unique, as is any other species."


'/>"/>

Contact: Daniel Williams
d.d.williams@exeter.ac.uk
44-139-272-2062
University of Exeter
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Study shows adding UV light helps form Missing G of RNA building blocks
2. 5-year report highlights status of Washingtons forest resources
3. ARS scientists seek blight-resistant spuds
4. After the oil spill: New research sheds light on coral susceptibility to environmental stress
5. Scientists decipher structure of natures light switch
6. Study sheds light on how marine animals survive stress
7. Artificial butterfly in flight and filmed
8. BioBusiness Alliance, Canadian Light Source Synchrotron sign agreement
9. Control of cell movement with light accomplished in living organisms
10. Immune system compromised during spaceflight, study finds
11. Slight changes in 2 key genes appear to launch breast cancer development
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Mongoose traditions shed light on evolution of human culture
(Date:2/4/2016)... , Feb. 4, 2016 The ... apparently one of the most popular hubs of ... MetaHIT and other huge studies of human microbiota, ... past few years, the microbiome space has literally ... biomedical research. This report focuses on biomedical ...
(Date:2/3/2016)... -- --> --> ... Identification System Market by Component (Hardware and Software), Search ... Government, Healthcare, and Transportation) and Geography - Global Forecast ... to be worth USD 8.49 Billion by 2020 at ... The transformation and technology evolution from the manual process ...
(Date:2/3/2016)... , Feb. 3, 2016 ... addition of the "Emotion Detection and ... Learning, and Others), Software Tools (Facial Expression, ... End Users,and Regions - Global forecast to ... --> http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/d8zjcd/emotion_detection ) has announced ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/10/2016)...  Allergan plc (NYSE: AGN ) a leading ... , Allergan,s CEO and President, will be featured as ... the RBC Capital Markets Healthcare Conference on Tuesday, February ... York Palace Hotel in New York, NY ... can be accessed on Allergan,s Investor Relations web site ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... ... February 10, 2016 , ... SonaCare Medical, LLC reports ... program, Sonalink™ remote monitoring. The inaugural launch of this new technology occurred over ... Dr. Samuel Peretsman to a HIFU technical expert at SonaCare Medical headquarters. ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... ... February 09, 2016 , ... Creation Technologies, ... of the Highest Overall Customer Rating Award from Circuits Assembly , today announced ... across the USA, Canada, Mexico and China. , The EMS provider, known in ...
(Date:2/9/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Clinovo , the cloud-based eClinical software ... Capture (EDC) system ClinCaptureand its new Contract Research Organization (CRO) Partner Program ... San Mateo, California on February 10th and 11th. Watch 2-min video . ...
Breaking Biology Technology: