Abstract # 94:

Scheduled for Friday, June 22, 2007 10:15 AM-10:30 AM: Session 9 (North Main Hall F/G) Symposium

Studying How Social Context Aids Acquisition of Foraging Skills in Wild Brown Capuchins (Cebus apella) in Suriname

N. Gunst1, S. Boinski2 and D. M. Fragaszy3
1Institute of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-2202, USA, 2Department of Anthropology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA, 3Department of Psychology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA
     How might social context aid young monkeys’ learning to forage? Scrounging from others may help immatures (a) learn about characteristics of food items and appropriate foraging substrates, and (b) practice specific foraging actions. Additionally, young monkeys may be attracted to the long-lasting physical remains of others’ foraging activity. To detect this aspect of socially-mediated learning, expanded time-lines are necessary. We collected joint records of foraging activity and immediate social context, using 661 hours of focal data on a group of 34 brown capuchins. We considered the time-window of actions before and after a scrounging event to assess whether action is affected by the social closeness of the forager, its competence, or the type of food. Monkeys scrounged hard-to-process foods more often than easy foods [Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test, a=0.05]. Infants spent more time than older individuals scrounging from others [Kruskal Wallis, a=0.05]. Monkeys scrounged more often from kin and closer associates than others, and from fully competent mature foragers than from younger, less efficient individuals. Our clearest evidence for socially-mediated learning comes from the behavior of young monkeys towards ripped bamboo stalks left by others. Young monkeys approached and directed foraging actions towards these stalks, even after the original forager had left the site, more often than older monkeys. Thus both scrounging and attraction to remains may support learning. Supported by NSF (BCS-0352035).