A second inheritance system : the extension of biology through culture
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By the mid-twentieth century (thus following the ‘Modern Synthesis’ in evolutionary biology), the behavioural sciences offered only the sketchy beginnings of a scientific literature documenting evidence for cultural inheritance in animals – the transmission of traditional behaviours via learning from others (social learning). By contrast, recent decades have seen a massive growth in the documentation of such cultural phenomena, driven by long-term field studies and complementary laboratory experiments. Here I review the burgeoning scope of discoveries in this field, which increasingly suggest that this ‘second inheritance system’, built on the shoulders of the primary genetic inheritance system, occurs widely amongst vertebrates and possibly in invertebrates too. Its novel characteristics suggest significant implications for our understanding of evolutionary biology. I assess the extent to which this second system extends the scope of evolution, both by echoing principal properties of the primary, organic evolutionary system, and going beyond it in significant ways. This is well established in human cultural evolution; here I address animal cultures more generally. The further major, and related, question concerns the extent to which the consequences of widespread animal cultural transmission interact with the primary, genetically based inheritance systems, shaping organic evolution.
Whiten , A 2017 , ' A second inheritance system : the extension of biology through culture ' Interface Focus , vol. 7 , no. 5 , 20160142 . https://doi.org/10.1098/rsfs.2016.0142
© 2017 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved. This work has been made available online in accordance with the publisher’s policies. This is the author created accepted version manuscript following peer review and as such may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://doi.org/10.1098/rsfs.2016.0142
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