The Repertoire and Social Function of Facial Displays inCebus capucinus


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Abstract

Systematic studies on facial displays in capuchins are limited and based mainly on studies of tufted capuchins (Cebus apella). Despite the great social-morphological variability within Cebus suggesting possible morphological and functional variations in the facial displays of different species, no study has considered thoroughly visual communication in the genus. Our aim was to describe the facial displays of white-faced capuchins and to assess their distribution and communicative function. We observed 15 captive white-faced capuchins in the Primate Centre of the Louis Pasteur University of Strasbourg, for a total of 198 h. We described the following facial displays: relaxed open-mouth, lip-smacking, open-mouth threat-face, silent bared-teeth, open-mouth silent bared-teeth, protruded-lip face, and tongue-out. We never observed the scalp-lifting display, one of the most common displays characterizing tufted capuchins. White-faced capuchins use the majority of facial displays in an affiliative or playful context; only the open-mouth threat-face display is associated with aggressive behaviors. White-faced capuchins lack ritualized signals of submission. The fact that in white-faced capuchins the silent bared-teeth display conveys only a positive message, while in tufted capuchins it signals submission as well as affiliation, supports the covariation hypothesis (Thierry 2004 Social epigenesis. In B. Thierry, M. Singh, & W. Kaummans (Eds.), Macaque societies: A Model for the study of social organization, pp. 267–294. Oxford University Press).

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