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Social diffusion of novel foraging methods in brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella)

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Author(s)

Marietta Dindo, Bernard Thierry, Andrew Whiten

School/Research organisations

Abstract

It has been reported that wild capuchin monkeys exhibit several group-specific behavioural traditions. By contrast, experiments have found little evidence for the social learning assumed necessary to support such traditions. The present study used a diffusion chain paradigm to investigate whether a novel foraging task could be observationally learned by capuchins ( Cebus apella) and then transmitted along a chain of individuals. We used a two-action paradigm to control for independent learning. Either of two methods ( lift or slide) could be used to open the door of a foraging apparatus to retrieve food. Two chains were tested (N-1=4; N-2=5), each beginning with an experimenter-trained model who demonstrated to a partner its group-specific method for opening the foraging apparatus. After the demonstration, if the observer was able to open the apparatus 20 times by either method, then it became the demonstrator for a new subject, thus simulating the spread of a foraging tradition among 'generations' of group members. Each method was transmitted along these respective chains with high fidelity, echoing similar results presently available only for chimpanzees and children. These results provide the first clear evidence for faithful diffusion of alternative foraging methods in monkeys, consistent with claims for capuchin traditions in the wild.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-193
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume275
Issue number1631
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2008

    Research areas

  • social learning, tradition, culture, primates, diffusion chains, Cebus apella, CULTURAL TRANSMISSION, NORWAY RATS, CHIMPANZEES, INFORMATION, BEHAVIOR, TRADITIONS, EVOLUTION, CONVENTIONS, BUDGERIGARS, CHILDREN

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