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Anthropological Institute & Museum

Thibaud Gruber

Dr.  Thibaud  Gruber

Tel.: +41 635 54 22
Fax: +41 635 68 04

Research Interest

I am interested in the evolution of culture in wild apes and the links between culture and cognition from an evolutionary and developmental perspective. During my PhD, I developed the “honey-trap experiment”, a field experiment proposed to several communities of chimpanzees in Uganda. Results showed that chimpanzees would attempt to extract honey from a hole drilled in a log using their cultural knowledge. In particular, the Sonso chimpanzees, who do not use sticks to acquire food in their natural environment, adapted a behaviour normally used to collect water, leaf-sponging, to extract honey from the hole. My subsequent studies and current work aim at understanding how chimpanzee cognition is influenced by their cultural knowledge. Additionally, I am interested in understanding the origin of cultural differences between communities. In great apes, I favour a dynamic model where cultural traits can appear and disappear, depending on the ecological conditions faced by a community as well as on the social structure of this group at a given time, much like our human cultural traits. Recently, I have developed an interest in human studies and aim to replicate and expend the ape studies with human children.

Link Université de Neuchâtel

List of Publications

  • Gruber, T., Krupenye, C., Byrne, M.-R., Mackworth-Young, C. McGrew, W.C., Reynolds, V. & Zuberbühler, K. (submitted). The influence of ecology on animal cultural behaviour: A case study of five Ugandan chimpanzee communities.

  • Gruber, T. & Zuberbühler, K. (submitted). The primate origin of human cultural mind.

  • Gruber, T., Muller, M.N., Reynolds, V., Wrangham, R.W. & Zuberbühler, K. (2011) Community-specific evaluation of tool affordances in wild chimpanzees. Scientific Reports, 1, doi:10.1038/srep00128

  • Clay, Z., Pika, S., Gruber, T. & Zuberbühler, K. (2011) Female bonobos use copulation calls as social signals. Biology Letters, 7(4):513-6.

  • Gruber, T., Clay, Z. & Zuberbühler, K. (2010) A comparison of bonobo and chimpanzee tool use: evidence for a female bias in the Pan lineage. Animal Behaviour, 80(6), 1023-1033.

  • Gruber, T. & Nagle, L. (2010) Territorial reactions of male Yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella) toward a specific song structure. Journal of Ornithology, 151, 645-654.

  • Gruber, T., Reynolds, V. & Zuberbühler, K. (2010) The knowns and unknowns of chimpanzee culture. Communicative & Integrative Biology.3(3): 221–223.

  • Gruber, T., Muller, M.N., Strimling, P., Wrangham, R.W. & Zuberbühler, K. (2009) Wild chimpanzees rely on cultural knowledge to solve an experimental honey acquisition task. Current biology, 19(21):1806-10.

Research Associates