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We often think of culture as solely human. We think of our music, our clothes, our food, our languages. However, culture stretches far beyond Homo sapiens. As evidence of the existence of culture in other animal groups emerges (from insects, rats, fish to land mammals, primates and dolphins), humans need to rethink what it means to have culture. We must accept that what we have long considered our own might be shared.
This is especially important because culture can have important implications for conservation. Understanding an animal's culture might be the only way to save them.
PhD - Candidate - Culture - Species - Whale
As a Ph.D. candidate studying culture in a non-human species, the sperm whale, I have had the chance to witness its implications. The more time I spend with whales and learning from them, the more I am convinced that acknowledging their culture is necessary to understand and protect them.
What is culture?
People - Idea - Culture - Culture - Time
While most people have a general idea of what culture is, defining it can prove difficult. Culture is pervasive and, at the same time, it can express itself in such small, almost non-perceptible ways. Biology defines culture as shared information (or behavior) that you acquire socially from your peers.
The importance of culture has long been recognized in humans. It is how we successfully inhabited all the biomes of our planet. Culture dictates our social interactions; the spontaneity of fashion and music; the laws that govern our societies and civilizations; the causes of our wars; the reason why, right now, you are reading this article instead of foraging in the forest.
Culture - Aspect - Lives - Species - Today
Culture shapes every aspect of our lives and has allowed us to become the dominant species we are today. However, although humans might be the most cultural species, they are not the only cultural species.
Instead, culture —expressed in small and big ways —is found throughout the animal...
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