Culture in Other Animals

John Hartigan’s article, ” Culture is for the birds…and the bees…and the dolphins, etc.” discusses the evidence that animals other than humans, express and interact with their own forms of culture. Hartigan discusses birds, bees, dolphins, and primates, but mainly focuses on the culture of birds. The majority of the article focuses on birds and their cultures. One particular experiment showed that even after birds (Great Tits in this case) were taught, in a lab, one way to get access to food, upon returning to the wild, they used the same methods of getting food that other Great Tits used. This showed the evidence that there was a culture for the birds to follow. Bird songs are another topic explored. Sections of the songs of Hermit Thrushes were analyzed, and shown to have many of the same musical and mathematical principles found in both western and non-western human music. These various connections to human life lead us to believe that birds have a culture of their own.

Interestingly though, is how Hartigan goes about analyzing and gathering research. As an anthropologist, a human anthropologist, Hartigan does not have the knowledge or experience to properly study these animals. Hartigan makes use of his anthropological training to analyze and draw conclusions on the work of biologists and other scientist. Anthropology is being applied to the animals in question, and used to compare to humans. This is how Hartigan and others can study the culture of animals.