Program No.17-006 (Collaborative Research)

St. Andrews International Conference on Animal Social Learning

Michael A. Huffman

Period: June 13th - 20th, 2005

The St. Andrews International Conference on Animal Social Learning was held from June 15th to the 20th on the campus of the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. This conference focused on a wide variety of currently popular topics in social learning, cultural behavior and communication in animals. The main purpose of the meeting was to bring together experts and students in the field to discuss current topics and future research paradigms. The conference was hosted by professors Kevin Laland、Andy Whiten and Vincent Janik of the Center for Social Learning and Cognitive at the University of St. Andrews.

Studies from a broad range of disciplines within ethology and psychology covering a plethora of animal species including ants, fish, birds, elephants and primates were presented. The conference was divided into 6 sessions: 'Conceptual issues in the study of social learning', 'Inferring psychological mechanisms from behavior', 'Ecological perspectives on social learning', Animal traditions and culture', 'Social learning in animal communication', and 'Observational learning and teaching', with 99 registered speakers in all. Each session was started off with a plenary lecture given by a representative senior scientist of each respective area of research (Jeff Galef, Gyorgy Gergely, Louis Lefebvre, Carel van Schaik, Christophe Boesch, Michael Beecher, Cecilia Heyes). Each night all participants gathered around the posters set up in the meeting hall's front lobby and engaged in vigorous discussion.

At the conference, I presented an oral paper (abstract below) co-authored by Japanese and Italian collaborators on our joint research into the role of social learning in the acquisition of self-medicative behaviors in wild chimpanzees. Two posters were also presented together PRI graduate student Charmalie Nahallage and others on aspects of acquisition, development and transmission of stone handling, a cultural behavior in Japanese macaques (abstract below).


Oral presentation

The role of social learning in the acquisition and transmission of leaf-swallowing behavior, a self-medicative behavior in chimpanzees.
1 HUFFMAN, Michael. A., 2 SPIEZIO, Catrina. 3 SGARAVATTI, Andrea. 4 HIRATA, Satoshi 5 GRASSI, D.
1) Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University, Inuyama, Japan e-mail:, 2) Cognitive Neuroscience Sector, ISAS-SISSA, Trieste, Italy, 3 Department of Psychology, University of Trieste, Italy, 4 Great Ape Research Institute, Tamano, Okayama, Japan, 5 Parco Natura Viva Garda Zoological Park, Verona, Italy

Various lines of evidence have led to the hypothesis that whole leaf-swallowing behavior (WLSB), a well-documented self-medicative behavior of great apes, is acquired in part by social learning and culturally transmitted across generations. Details of this process remain elusive however, as it is difficult to follow the actual acquisition by individuals under natural conditions. To help test this hypothesis, we carried out an experimental study on 3 WLSB naive captive groups of healthy chimpanzees of different social composition (adult males + females; adult male + adult females + young; adult males only) to investigate the modes and pathways of acquisition and diffusion. It was established that this behavioral response is elicited in captivity by healthy individuals, as a consequence of the physical properties of the leaves, and not innately as a response to illness. In all three groups, WLSB was acquired by at least one individual spontaneously, but all individuals of any one group did not acquire it. Acquisition was closely tied to whether or not close observation of a conspecific WLSB 'model' occurred during test sessions. The pathways and degree of diffusion varied from group to group, but each case was strongly influenced by such characteristics as their respective social networks and the social status of the first individual to handle the test stimuli.


No. 1

Development, acquisition and diffusion of stone handling behaviors among a Japanese macaque colony
NAHALLAGE Charmalie & HUFFMAN Michael A., Section of Ecology, Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University, Inuyama, Aichi, Japan.
E-mail :

Stone handling (SH), a behavioral tradition has been documented in detail in two free- ranging troops of Japanese macaques and is known to occur in at least nine free-ranging and five captive troops across Japan. However, few systematic attempts have been made to elucidate the acquisition process of this behavior in young individuals to quantifying the relative influence of the mother, siblings and other troop members. We conducted an 18-month study of a captive troop in the Primate Research Institute. 878 hours of focal observations, distributed equally across all seasons and times of the day, among all individuals were collected. In this troop SH appears to have reached the tradition phase and is transmitted across generations. Infants of frequent SH mothers (1.3-2.3 bouts/hour) start the behavior significantly earlier than infants of occasional (0.2 - 0.8 bouts/hour) and rare (0.9 - 0.18 bouts/hour) SH mothers. Infants of non SH mothers were the last to acquire it among peers. Frequent SH mothers share many similar behavioral patterns with their offspring. While rare SH mothers share less patterns, than older siblings do, with their infants. These results help demonstrate a clear role for social learning in the acquisition and transmission of SH behavior.

No. 2

Stone handling as a behavioral tradition: a comparative study in 10 troops of Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata).
Michael HUFFMAN1, Jean-Baptiste LECA1, Noelle GUNST2, and Charmalie NAHALLAGE1,
1: Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University, Inuyama, Japan.
2: Department of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, USA.

Stone handling consists for an individual of manipulating stones by performing various behavioral patterns. Previous findings from the Arashiyama and Takasakiyama populations suggest that stone handling is a behavioral tradition for these groups. Here we present more systematic investigations of this behavior from a wider variety of troops as a beginning to better understand the context of occurrence and its possible function. The objective of this report is to investigate the roles of demographic, social, behavioral, and ecological factors influencing the diffusion and maintenance of stone handling in Japanese macaques. A comparative study was conducted in 10 troops within Japan: 4 captive groups (Inuyama) and 6 free-ranging provisioned populations at Arashiyama, Koshima, Shodoshima, and Takasakiyama. The same observation procedure were used: video-recorded focal sampling interspersed with group activity scan sampling. Our goals are: 1) to provide a comprehensive descriptive inter-group comparison of the form and diffusion rate of stone handling according
to socio-demographic factors (group size, group composition and
group cohesion) as well as ecological factors (stone availability, season); 2) to test stone handling as a socially induced behaviour; 3) to investigate the maintenance of stone handling in two long-term studied troops at Arashiyama and Takasakiyama.


Participants relaxing


Prof. Susan Perry and Charmalie Nahallage

HOPE Project<>