Identifying cultural units in wild orangutans

Project leader

Anna Marzec (PhD student, AIM University of Zürich)

The goal of this project is to recognize which factors limit the spread of behavioral innovations and ultimately identify cultural units in wild Bornean and Sumatran orangutans. Orangutan females are philopatric. They form clear clusters of female relatives and associate more with each other than with non-related females, regardless of the similarity in home range overlap. Tolerance of some and avoidance of other individuals shape association patterns among female neighbors and suggest existence of social barriers within population. We are investigating the importance of these social barriers and their effect on the transmission of innovation (e.g. tool use), other learned skills (e.g. feeding and nest building techniques) and behaviors (e.g. diet) within populations. We collect data to compose behavioral profiles of individuals from all sex-age classes in order to relate dyadic similarities to patterns in genetic relatedness, social exposure and home range overlap.