Abstract # 54:

Scheduled for Thursday, August 17, 2006 04:45 PM-05:00 PM: Session 6 (Regency East #3) Oral Presentation

Auditory playback alone is insufficient to condition captive-reared cotton-top tamarins to mob a predator

M. W. Campbell and C. T. Snowdon
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Psychology, Brogden Hall, 1202 W. Johnson St., Madison, WI 53706, USA
     High rates of mortality typify reintroductions of captive-born animals. One cause is predation. Many different species can learn about predators, and captive-born animals may benefit from pre-release predator training prior to reintroduction. We attempted to condition predator mobbing in naïve, captive-reared cotton-top tamarins. Adapting a method successful with birds, the experiment followed a pre-test, conditioning, post-test format. In pre-tests, tamarins responded equally to a snake and a rat. This was consistent with previous research, and we concluded that the tamarins did not innately recognize the snake as a predator. During conditioning, mobbing calls were played from a hidden speaker while tamarins were exposed to a snake in a clear plastic box inside the subjects’ cage. In post-tests, tamarins did not mob the snake (8 groups), although a subset of subjects without a pre-test may have increased vigilance (4 groups). The vocal and behavioral responses to the snake, rat, and novel control object did not differ significantly (paired T-tests, Friedman ANOVA). We concluded that the method did not successfully condition predator mobbing in naïve cotton-top tamarins. Failure could have been due to trying to condition multiple subjects together and using solely auditory information in the unconditioned stimulus. Ability to watch a demonstrator may enhance learning. Whereas observing a demonstrator was not necessary for birds, it may be necessary for primates to learn predator mobbing.