Cultural Evolution Society 2021
The diversity of animal culture across community structures
It has become increasingly clear that culture and social learning play a vital role in species ecology. While much attention has been paid to its presence in vertebrates such as primates and cetaceans, which often have complex social structure, it also occurs in a broad and diverse variety of animal communities including reptiles, fishes, and insects. As we learn more about the breadth of species that utilise social learning, it has expanded the scope of what social learning and culture can tell us beyond a single species. This is particularly relevant as the conservation value of culture and social complexity becomes more established. Here I review social learning across species with varying community structures, providing an overview of how culture can manifest across animal societies and the different ecological roles it may play as a result. Such a review is critical to how studies across different species and community structures may inform one another. It further illustrates the intrinsic value of animal culture in practice as well as theory. When these separate pieces are brought together, they will provide the necessary infrastructure to move the field of animal culture forward in how it can be both understood and applied.