Orangutan Cultures and the Evolution of Material Culture

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Science  03 Jan 2003:
Vol. 299, Issue 5603, pp. 102-105
DOI: 10.1126/science.1078004

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Geographic variation in some aspects of chimpanzee behavior has been interpreted as evidence for culture. Here we document similar geographic variation in orangutan behaviors. Moreover, as expected under a cultural interpretation, we find a correlation between geographic distance and cultural difference, a correlation between the abundance of opportunities for social learning and the size of the local cultural repertoire, and no effect of habitat on the content of culture. Hence, great-ape cultures exist, and may have done so for at least 14 million years.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: vschaik{at}

  • Present address: Orangutan Foundation International, 4201 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 407, Los Angeles, CA 90010, USA.

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