By Alyssa Quinlan
A groundbreaking new study at the Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale in Toulouse, France revealed that contrary to popular belief, organisms other than humans possess the ability to maintain something resembling a culture.
In the experiment, researchers set five standards that a behavior must meet to be considered “cultural.” Of these five criteria, the first stated that the behavior must passed down generation to generation through observation, and another held that it must be directly copied. The remaining three requirements require that the behavior must be memorized over a long period of time, involve an individual’s characteristics, and be common within the population.
While studying Drosophila, or fruit flies, researchers found that these five criteria were indeed met in terms of the transmission of sexual preferences through generations. When compared with computer simulations, the mating choices made by the flies in question matched up perfectly with the predicted results, therefore confirming the hypothesis that Drosophila observe and pass down preferences in choosing mates. Beyond that, researchers also noted the importance of conformism in the maintenance of culture – especially within the Drosophila genus.
Not only do these results affirm the widely held belief that culture is strictly limited to humans, but they also raise questions about the extent of its affect on evolution and ultimately set the foundation for a new field of research regarding animal culture.
CNRS. "Toolbox for studying the existence of animal cultures: Fruit flies can transmit their sexual preferences culturally, study shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 November 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181129142447.htm>.