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7 cultured animals that share knowledge

By: Bryan Nelson on May 9, 2011, 11:08 a.m.
snow monkeys in hot spring

Photo: cameranew/iStockphoto

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A study of Japanese macaques in the 1940s by animal researcher Kinji Imanishi was the first instance where the word “culture” was used to describe animal behavior. Thus, these monkeys were essentially the first animals ever acknowledged as having culture. Imanishi's study was particularly revelatory because it traced a specific behavior, in this case the act of washing potatoes before eating them, from its origin as a novel invention through several generations of transmission. That remarkable potato-washing behavior was even adjusted and improved by the monkey culture as time went on, as they learned that washing their potatoes in salt water made them taste better.