Abstract # 101:

Scheduled for Friday, August 18, 2006 08:15 AM-09:15 AM: (Regency Center 1/3) Featured Speaker


Hercules with a tail: A natural history of nut-cracking among the capuchin monkeys of southern Piauí, Brazil

D. Fragaszy
Univ. of Georgia, Dept. of Psychology, Athens, GA 30602-3013, USA
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     Since January 2005, our team has studied the remarkable bearded capuchin monkeys (Cebus libidinosus) of southern Piauí, Brazil, that use stones to hammer open palm nuts and other hard fruits on stone and log anvils. We have unraveled a few of the mysteries surrounding this phenomenon but many more remain. Here I give a one-year progress report, presenting our findings to date on (1) how the monkeys crack nuts and other fruits using stone hammers; (2) how and when the monkeys transport stones and nuts, including bipedal transport of very heavy stones; (3) the distribution and properties of anvils and of hammer stones, and how often specific anvils are used; (4) the provenance of the hammer stones, and (5) the special ecological and geological conditions that, in our view, support the unusual behavior of the capuchins in this region. I will suggest that the phenomenon we are studying has interesting implications for our views of the relations among ecology, technology and society in nonhuman species, and perhaps in our ancestors. It also highlights the complexities of strenuous activity with heavy objects, another aspect of behavior shared by these monkeys and humans, contemporary and ancestral. Supported by the National Science Foundation BCS 0125486, LSB Leakey Foundation and the National Geographic Society.