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Keywords:

  • M. fuscata;
  • M. mulatta;
  • behavioral predisposition;
  • object play;
  • environment

Abstract

This study describes the stone handling (SH) behavior of captive rhesus macaques and compares it with that of a captive troop of Japanese macaques with reference to the relative contributions of phylogeny-driven behavioral propensities, environmental differences and socially facilitated learning to the formation of culture. These systematically collected data demonstrate for the first time that two closely related macaque species might share a common cultural behavior, SH. The rhesus troop displayed SH behavioral patterns that was already described in Japanese macaque troops. The one exception was a new pattern not yet seen in any Japanese macaque troop. Differences in the physical environment of the two study enclosures may be responsible for some of the variation in observed SH behavioral patterns in these two troops. These data support the idea that environmental factors can be important for the formation of cultural variation, when the key materials needed to perform the behavior are present in both habitats (stones). Our results are consistent with the prediction made by Huffman and Hirata [The biology of tradition: Models and evidence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p 267–296] that an interactive triad of phylogenetic, environmental and social factors can be responsible for the formation of cultural variation in primates. Am. J. Primatol. 70:1124–1132, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.