It turns out that to develop a “cumulative culture” – technology that constantly ratchets up in complexity and diversity – a species needs to be able to share information very accurately.It doesn’t matter how much novel invention takes place, unless those inventions are replicated accurately then they die out before they can be built upon.It can be morbid, as with the herring gull that invented the habit of catching rabbits and killing them by drowning them at sea. For example, Japanese macaques have been known to start rolling snow balls and playing with them.
Another fascinating analysis revealed that migratory species are less innovative than non-migrant birds, with the former forced to travel because they can’t adjust their behaviour to the tough winter months.
Kevin N Laland receives funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Natural Environment Research Council, the John Templeton Foundation, and the European Research Council.
His book "Darwin's Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind" is published by Princeton University Press.
In truth, many animals are enormously inventive, but the extent of animal innovation remained hidden until recently for a simple and obvious reason.
You can’t recognise novel behaviour until you have a good understanding of the normal behaviour of a species.