Tradition and Imitation in Animals
Charles Darwin spent a summer morning in the 1850s watching bumble bees as they cut small holes in the calyces of flowers and fed on nec tar through the openings thus created. The next day Darwin observed large numbers of honey bees feeding at the holes that had been made by the bumble bees. He wrote in his journal, “I must think that the hive bees [honeybees] either saw the humble bees [bumble bees] cutting the holes and understood what they were doing and immediately profited by their labour; or that they . . . imitated the humble bees after they cut the holes and when sucking at them. ” (Darwin, in Romanes, 1884, p. 221). The question, im plicitly raised here by Darwin, was whether animals could imitate one another’s behavior, and it was destined to play a central role in the controversy between Alfred Russell Wallace and Darwin over whether human mind had evolved from animal mind by purely natural processes (Galef, 1988; Romanes, 1884).