Cultured Japanese Macaques: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Stone Handling Behavior and Its Implications for the Evolution of Behavioral Tradition in Nonhuman Primates

  • Michael A. Huffman
  • Jean-Baptiste Leca
  • Charmalie A. D. Nahallage
Part of the Primatology Monographs book series (PrimMono, volume 0)


Japanese primatologists have paid attention to cultural phenomena in ­nonhuman primates since the earliest stage of their studies. The most famous example­ of behavioral traditions in Japanese macaques is probably sweet potato washing behavior. After being innovated by a young female on Koshima Islet, this behavior was socially transmitted from the innovator to most other group members. More recently, stone handling (SH) behavior, a form of solitary object play, also became a well-known example of culture in this species. A longitudinal study allowed ­following the appearance, subsequent transmission, and transformation processes over 30 years and across multiple generations in a provisioned group at Arashiyama, Kyoto. Also under more controlled conditions of captivity, we assessed how the individual acquisition, expression, and possible functional aspects of SH behavior may be influenced by specific environmental factors, access to demonstrators by naïve individuals (typically within mother–infant dyads), and neuromotor developmental constraints. Finally, a ten-group intersite comparison of this behavior was carried out to investigate the genetic, ecological, and sociodemographic factors that may affect the innovation, spread, and maintenance of the SH culture. This research on SH is the most extensive and systematic survey focused on the intra- and intergroup variability of a single type of behavior in monkeys to date.


Rhesus Macaque Japanese Macaque Dental Floss Social Tolerance Object Play 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors are particularly grateful to the following sources that funded much of the research work presented here. In particular, a Grant-in-Aid for scientific research (No. 1907421 to M.A. Huffman), sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture, Japan, a Lavoisier postdoctoral Grant, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, France and a JSPS (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) postdoctoral fellowship (No. 07421 to J.-B. Leca), a 5.5-year scholarship from the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, Japan, for graduate studies at Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute to C.A.D. Nahallage, and by travel funds to all three authors from the HOPE Project, a core-to-core program sponsored by JSPS at different times to present work at international meetings and to conduct related field research overseas.


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© Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael A. Huffman
    • 1
  • Jean-Baptiste Leca
    • 1
  • Charmalie A. D. Nahallage
    • 2
  1. 1.Social Systems Evolution Section, Department of Ecology and Social BehaviorPrimate Research Institute, Kyoto UniversityInuyamaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyUniversity of Sri JayewardenepuraGangodawilaSri Lanka

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