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Chimps pass down handshakes through generations, suggests study


A new study found that chimps pass down cultural practices from generation to generation.


Issouf Sanogo

New research shows that chimpanzees pass down cultural traditions from one generation to another.

One of the most fascinating traditions they pass down are handshakes, said researchers at the Max Planck Institute.

Using chimps from the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust in Zambia, the 5-year study found that some of the animals use a "grooming handclasp" to help wash each other, said BBC.

The sanctuary setting was ideal to observe the chimps, as many groups were never in contact with one another to pass their traditions, said LiveScience.

Thus, any major difference between groups could signify a form of cultural practice or particularity.

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Yet, the researchers found that this technique varies between chimps with some preferring to clasp hands and others wrists.

The study showed that groups of chimps may be passing down these techniques, which might signify some primitive form of culture or "way of doing things" - a marker of what humans believe is civilization.

"We don't know what mechanisms account for these differences but our study at least reveals that these chimpanzee communities formed and maintained their own local grooming traditions over the last five years," said researcher Edwin van Leeuwen, reported the Telegraph.

"Our observations may also indicate that chimpanzees can overcome their innate predispositions, potentially allowing them to manipulate their environment based on social constructs rather than on mere instincts."

The findings were published Proceedings of the Royal Society B.