Nonhuman Primate Culture in BBC Earth Series

Culture influences the humanity in many ways. Nevertheless, it is not always possible to explain its origin. Specific cultural characteristics have been forming for centuries. A lot of people consider culture a privilege of homo sapiens, but they are wrong. It is curious to observe the behavior of primates in their natural environment, for they demonstrate certain cultural traits.

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There is a little possibility to watch primates in nature alive, but the videos on the internet make this study available and safe. The program I am talking about is from BBC Earth series. It is about the smart monkeys and shows them defending a harem. It shows a fragment of gelada monkeys’ life. They tend to live in big groups, often amounting to 800 individuals. They look like a society in the structure. The monkeys have their particular language and even names. Non-verbal signs are used as well. There is a head of this group that watches what is going on. He is called a harem master.

The members of the group demonstrate much flirting on both sides, male and female. Besides, they follow a certain etiquette, which I consider a sign of culture. It is the fact that no one attacks an individual with a baby. Thus, this situation may be used during the fight. Nevertheless, male leaders should be careful with it, for if a baby monkey is hurt, there is a strong possibility that they will not get support from the wives again. On the whole, I would call this monkey group social and competitive. This feature of competition is another thing that is shared between humans and primates.

People traditionally pass the cultural habits using social learning. It is considered that it is the culture that differs humans from animals. Still, it is certain that culture is a feature characteristic not only of humans. The researchers prove that great apes also can get social experience and transfer it to further generations. Within the recent decades, the scientists noticed that great apes in the wild nature showed some regional diversity in their conduct. It is evidence for the theory that primates deliver some cultural features similar to the way humans do it. Although, there still is much discussion whether this diversity is caused by culture or genetics and the environment.

I believe that both environment and genetics may be important but not decisive. Due to comparatively high life expectancy, some primates need to adjust to the changing circumstances. Consequently, they need to pass the social information to other generations. It implies an educational component when more experienced individuals give the necessary information to infants. An example of it may be a situation when an older monkey teaches a small one how to get a nut and open it. Other primate communities use sticks to get insects or wash vegetables. The fact that these actions vary with different species proves that they are acquired and not passed genetically. The older generations pass their experience and practices to the following ones, which is a part of culture.

Summarizing, I should mention that of course human culture is not the same as that of orangutan or chimpanzee. Every species is unprecedented, but both humans and non-human primates possess their peculiar culture. On the whole, the study of primates’ culture may contribute to revealing the roots of human culture too.

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StudyCorgi. "Nonhuman Primate Culture in BBC Earth Series." October 28, 2020.


StudyCorgi. 2020. "Nonhuman Primate Culture in BBC Earth Series." October 28, 2020.


StudyCorgi. (2020) 'Nonhuman Primate Culture in BBC Earth Series'. 28 October.

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