Buffer Me

Tuesday, July 27, 2021


Soo, pal, parrots have their own culture, that is they have different issue-related behaviours not as a consequence of ecological and genetic variation among them, but 'cause of, precisely, different cultural tracts.

Aaand of course this happens in the most animal wild place on Earth: Australia.

Behavioural ecologist Dr. Barbara C. Klump and a bunch of colleagues led by Dr. Lucy M. Aplin
(of the Cognitive and Cultural Ecology Research Group of the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Germany) indeed (P) in a paper on Science described "the emergence[, in Sydney,] of an evolving set of behaviors [(meaning cultural tracts)] in response to human-generated resources [(meaning the presence of garbage bins with lid to be opened to get to yummy-for-animals-food inside)], in sulphur-crested cockatoos [(meaning the parrots in question)] (see).

The feathered brains, as a matter of fact, displayed social learning skills, and managed to develop "
foraging cultures" (P) in that they acquired the capability to open the lids of waste bins in different (and city area specific) ways.

By the way, pal, Aussies have filmed the birds while even beating the human countermeasures: meaning that human dudes put bricks and other heavy stuff on top of the lids to make it hard, for the birds, to lift said lids, but the canny parrots just beak-pushed the things off the lids, and then proceeded with the party (see video).

Anyway, back to the research paper. Dr. Aplin and colleagues observed "the geographic spread of bin opening from three suburbs to 44 in Sydney, Australia, by means of social learning. Analysis of 160 direct observations revealed individual styles and site-specific differences"
(P), meaning the various groups of cockatoos have their own garbage bin's lid opening culture, and this passes around via observation and imitation, that is, as said, social learning.

This dumb blog, in the following cartoon, provides you a plausible genesis of the fenomenon.

Asutralian Cockatoos and the Trash Cans' lid opening (by @sciencemug)
Asutralian Cockatoos & the trash cans' lid opening (by @sciencemug)
[The tree parrots
pic by Stephen , and the meadow parrots pic by Kelli McClintock, are free ones (source: Unsplash); adapted by @sciencemug]

Oh dear reader, don't be fooled, cultural tracts are not a sulphur-crested cockatoos'
exclusive. It is well known since decades, for instace, that chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) have lots of cultural differences.

As of 1999, putting together 151 years of observation from seven long-term studies performed in Africa on as many chimpanzee groups (1), scientists counted "39 different behaviour patterns, including tool usage, grooming and courtship behaviours" (1). Some of these chimps' cultural tracts are: nuts opening (stones vs wooden hammers vs tree root anvils) (1)(2), termites and ant fishing using sticks and other tools (1), the usage of leaves as seats or to clean the body (1), the usage of leafy sticks to fan flies away (1), "[h]and-clasp (clasp arms overhead, groom)" (1) and the "[r]ain dance (slow display at start of rain)" (1).



The paper this minipost is about (P

- Klump, B.C., Martin, J.M., Wild, S., Hörsch, J.K., Major, R.E., and Aplin, L.M. (2021). Innovation and geographic spread of a complex foraging culture in an urban parrot. Science 373, 456–460.


1- Whiten, A., Goodall, J., McGrew, W.C., Nishida, T., Reynolds, V., Sugiyama, Y., Tutin, C.E.G., Wrangham, R.W., and Boesch, C. (1999). Cultures in chimpanzees. Nature 399, 682–685.

2- Luncz, L.V., Mundry, R., and Boesch, C. (2012). Evidence for Cultural Differences between Neighboring Chimpanzee Communities. Current Biology 22, 922–926.