Transport of tools to food sites in tufted capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella)

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Tool use and transport represent cognitively important aspects of early hominid evolution, and nonhuman primates are often used as models to examine the cognitive, ecological, morphological and social correlates of these behaviors in order to gain insights into the behavior of our early human ancestors. In 2001, Jalles-Filho et al. found that free-ranging capuchin monkeys failed to transport tools (stones) to food sites (nuts), but transported the foods to the tool sites. This result cast doubt on the usefulness of Cebus to model early human tool-using behavior. In this study, we examined the performance of six captive tufted capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) in a tool transport task. Subjects were provided with the opportunity to transport two different tools to fixed food reward sites when the food reward was visible from the tool site and when the food reward was not visible from the tool site. We found that the subjects quickly and readily transported probing tools to an apparatus baited with syrup, but rarely transported stones to a nut-cracking apparatus. We suggest that the performance of the capuchins here reflects an efficient foraging strategy, in terms of energy return, among wild Cebus monkeys.

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