Abstract # 107:

Scheduled for Friday, June 20, 2008 05:00 PM-07:00 PM: Session 12 (Ball Rooms A and B) Poster Presentation

Captive ex-pet Macaca fascicularis use hair and dental floss to floss their teeth

M. D. Matheson1, H. M. Mack1, L. K. Sheeran1, T. Yenter1 and P. Schulz2
1Central Washington University, 400 E. University Way, Ellensburg, WA 98926, USA, 2Oregon Primate Rescue
     A recent study by Watanabe et al. (2007) described the use of hair as dental floss in a group of habituated Macaca fascicularis, and speculated that this might be a culturally learned behavior as it did not occur in other groups. We observed this behavior in captive ex-pet M. fascicularis at a sanctuary. To test monkeys’ use of and preference for hair and similar items as floss, we presented the eight monkeys with human hair in situ to document their use (phase I). We next presented them with dental floss, a hairpiece, ribbon, and coconut husk in a random order across two trials on two separate days (phase II). Finally, we presented them with all four items in choice tests across two trials on two separate days (phase III). Five of eight monkeys flossed with human hair during phase I. Two subjects refused to participate in phase II, and the remaining six flossed on one or both trials, using only dental floss and the hairpiece. During phase III, subjects’ first choices varied, but they only flossed with pieces of the hairpiece. All six of the subjects participating in phase II were observed to floss at least once in phase III. Our results indicate that flossing with hair may be a widespread behavior in this species, not a unique cultural trait of one group.