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Data from: Temporal stability of chimpanzee social culture

Cite this dataset

van Leeuwen, Edwin J. C. (2021). Data from: Temporal stability of chimpanzee social culture [Dataset]. Dryad.


Culture is a hallmark of the human species, both in terms of the transmission of material inventions (e.g., tool manufacturing) and the adherence to social conventions (e.g., greeting mannerisms). While material culture has been reported across the animal kingdom, indications of social culture in animals are limited. Moreover, there is a paucity in evidencing cultural stability in animals. Here, based on a large dataset spanning 12 years, I show that chimpanzees adhere to arbitrary group-specific handclasp preferences that cannot be explained by genetics or the ecological environment. Despite substantial changes in group compositions across the study period, and all chimpanzees having several behavioral variants in their repertoires, chimpanzees showed and maintained the within-group homogeneity and between-group heterogeneity that is so characteristic of the cultural phenomenon in the human species. These findings indicate that human culture, including its arbitrary social conventions and long-term stability, is rooted in our evolutionary history.


Observational, all-occurrence data.


Research Foundation - Flanders, Award: 12W5318N