Chimp ‘Secret Handshakes’ May Be Cultural

Isn’t culture supposed to be what separates us from the animals? Now what does humanity have that sets us apart, just toilets and puns? Live Science writes:

These chimp handshakes, which are seen only among some of the primates, seem to differ from group to group in ways that aren’t dependent on genetics or environment. That leaves cultural differences between groups as a possible explanation.

This behavior was first seen in a group of chimps in Tanzania, and has been observed in at least 15 other groups as well. The fact that the behavior is long-lasting and appears to be passed down through generations suggests that the handshakes may be a rudimentary form of culture.

Two groups [observed over several years] were big into hand-clasping, but there were differences. Group 1 almost always grasped their hands palm-to-palm, while Group 2 hooked their wrists around each other instead. The researchers have also observed young chimpanzees learning the hand clasps from their elders. About 80 percent of the time, juvenile chimps first practice the hand-grabbing grooming with their mothers, the researchers found.

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  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    Culture is a natural aspect of life. It’s just the running set of rules and tendencies for acting among others of your same species… why would that be considered a human only trait?

  • Tchoutoye

    Before we start with freemasonry comparisons, what is exactly “secret” about them? How do we know they are deliberately kept secret from uninitiated chimps, or is it meant they were secret to human researchers?

    On the other hand, the secrecy aspect isn’t touched on in the article, it could be just another case of a misleading headline thrown in for the sake of attention seeking. 

    • nightman

      they are inplying ‘secret handshake’ as we call them, because thats what our culture has designated them as. im sure they are a secret to other chimp tribes…well a secret is somthing deliberatly held from another. the point is the development of culture. ‘secret handshake’ is just a saying.

      • nightman

        sorry…implying…deliberately…spelled those words wrong.

  • TennesseeCyberian

    “Now what does humanity have that sets us apart…?

    Eyeglasses, erotic literature, and form-fitting cyberskin pocket pussies.

    Well, that and atomic power.

    • Calypso_1

      Bonobos will do some pretty strange things with banana peels.

      • TennesseeCyberian

        Damn.  I should’ve known.  Well… at least we’ve still got the nukes.  Stupid simians.

      • TennesseeCyberian

        You know, now that you mention it…

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVE60zwXx1k

        • Calypso_1

          I spent a summer at Yerkes Primate Center.  Two things that really stuck with me:
          1) There is no doubt in my mind that we ourselves are primates and that these, our cousins are sentient beings.
          2) Chimps will spunk on anything. 

          • TennesseeCyberian

            Say, do you happen to know Frans de Waal? His work is fantastic.

          • Calypso_1

            A Personal Hero.

        • Calypso_1

           I wonder what happens if he gets hold of a bufo alvarius?

          • TennesseeCyberian

            He evolves into a Homo Erectus.

  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    > Isn’t culture supposed to be what separates us from the animals?

    Darwin is spinning in his grave right now.

  • Infvocuernos

     “Isn’t culture supposed to be what separates us from the animals?”  -maybe its time we change our definition of “animal”.  Bonobos are being taught how to flake flint to butcher kills with, and how to build a fire to cook it with, and they are in turn teach other bonobos.  That’s pretty much “people” in my book.  Forget the “secret handshake”, this is what our ancestors were doing.  We might want to hurry up with the re-assignment, before we really are the last ape standing. 

    • http://northierthanthou.com/ Daniel Wall

      It is often presented as the big distinguishing mark of humans, but the distinction isn’t as clean as some suppose, and it doesn’t separate us from animals.

  • just another animal

    Nothing separates us from the animals. There are differences between homo sapiens and OTHER animals but WE ARE animals ourselves. Acknowledgement of this fact helps to explain many of the problems of nations and the people that make them up, including so-called “civilized” populations. Ignorance and/or denial of this fact only serves to feed our delusions of superiority and separateness from nature. This, of course, leads to further problems.

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