The first long-term chimpanzee field studies were conducted in the 1960’s by Dr. Jane Goodall and Prof. Toshisada Nishida who worked at two different sites in Tanzania. In the decades of field observations that have followed, researchers have reported numerous behaviors that seem to be transmitted socially within chimpanzee populations. These reports culminated in 1999 with the publication of a compilation of data from six major field sites documenting 39 behaviors which vary between sites and are thought to represent culture.
Although these reports present strong evidence of chimpanzee culture, field studies face ethical and logistical challenges which impede the application of experimental control conditions which can demonstrate unequivocally that the patterning results from differential invention and social transmission of behavior. The Living Links Center has partnered with Dr. Andrew Whiten and the University of St. Andrews to study chimpanzee culture in captivity and thus investigate whether chimpanzees can learn from one another in a manner that can support culture.