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Student Prize Award Abstract
2004 Poster Paper Honorable Mention

DO ADULTS UNDERSTAND WHAT INFANTS KNOW ABOUT FOOD? FOOD TRANSFERS IN CAPTIVE COTTON-TOP TAMARINS (SAGUINUS OEDIPUS)

S. M. Joyce and C. T. Snowdon University of Wisconsin, Department of Psychology, Madison, WI, 53706, USA

Several studies on Callitrichid primates suggest the process of food transfer involves a learning process by infants regarding what foods are acceptable to eat and use of food-associated vocalizations. Research on lion tamarins suggests active teaching of infants by other group members in contrast with limited evidence for similar behavior in great apes or other monkeys. We studied infant cotton-top tamarins (N=9) in five captive family groups weekly from weeks 4-20 of age. On separate trials, we presented a familiar food, a food novel to infants but familiar to others, or a non-food object and measured food offering, food begging and stealing and independent feeding by infants. Novel foods were offered more often to infants than were familiar foods. As infants grew older, the frequencies of offers decreased while frequencies of begging and individual feeding increased. We used dependent samples t-tests to compare between novel and familiar foods. These results suggest an understanding on the part of older cotton-top tamarins of what the infants know with respect to food and support the results with lion tamarins. The differences between lion tamarins and cotton-top tamarins versus other nonhuman primates may be due to the cooperative breeding system that requires attention and involvement of all group members in infant care. Supported by Hilldale Student-Faculty Research Grant and USPHS Grant MH 29775.


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