- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2006

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Captive gorillas actually are a cultured bunch. Neither genetics nor environment alone can explain variations in the behaviors of different groups of the apes, a study found.

Behavioral surveys of the roughly 370 gorillas in U.S. zoos showed 48 variations in how individual groups of the apes make signals, use tools and seek comfort, said Tara Stoinski of Zoo Atlanta and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.

“What became very obvious is there is a very distinct pattern of similarities and differences between groups,” Miss Stoinski said.

That suggests the gorillas pass along the traits socially, not genetically, which is a hallmark of culture. Results were presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Researchers previously have found that other ape species — including chimpanzees and orangutans — show cultural differences, as well, in how they forage, use tools and court one another.

“These animals are smart enough to observe behaviors and imitate them,” said Ingrid Porton, curator of primates at the St. Louis Zoo.

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