Abstract # 206:

Scheduled for Saturday, June 23, 2007 11:45 AM-12:00 AM: Session 20 (North Main Hall F/G) Oral Presentation

Social transmission of experimental foraging techniques in capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella)

M. Dindo1, B. Thierry2, F. B. de Waal3,4 and A. Whiten1
1University of St Andrews, Centre for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution, School of Psychology, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9JP, United Kingdom, 2Département Ecologie, Physiologie et Ethologie, CNRS, Université Louis Pasteur, 67087 Strasbourg, France, 3Emory University, Department of Psychology, Atlanta, GA, 30322, USA, 4Living Links Center, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Atlanta, GA, 30329, USA
     It has been reported that wild capuchins have group-specific social behaviors, or ‘traditions’. It remains uncertain how these traditions are acquired and maintained socially. The present study investigated whether capuchins are capable of learning a novel foraging task from a conspecific and then transmitting that behavior along a chain of individuals. The study used a two-action task paradigm to control for independent learning. Two methods (lift and slide) were always possible for opening the door of a foraging device to retrieve food. Two chains were tested (n1=4; n2=5), each beginning with a trained model who demonstrated its group-specific method for opening the foraging device. After the demonstration, the observer was allowed to interact with the device. If the observer was able to open the device twenty times by either method, he or she then became the demonstrator for a new subject, thus simulating the spread of a foraging tradition among ‘generations’ of group members. An additional control group (n3=4) was tested without seeing demonstrations. The method used was recorded for each food-retrieval. Lift-group subjects performed over 90% lift, while slide-group subjects performed over 95% slide. Control subjects showed no overall preference for either method [Kruskal-Wallis test, H(2)=8.78, p=0.012]. These results suggest capuchins can copy foraging techniques from group members and support claims for group-specific traditions.