Goal-Directed Tail Use in Colombian Spider Monkeys (Ateles fusciceps rufiventris) Is Highly Lateralized

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Abstract

Behavioral laterality refers to a bias in the use of one side of the body over the other and is commonly studied in paired organs (e.g., hands, feet, eyes, antennae). Less common are reports of laterality in unpaired organs (e.g., trunk, tongue, tail). The goal of the current study was to examine tail use biases across different tasks in the Colombian spider monkey (Ateles fusciceps rufiventris) for the first time (N = 14). We hypothesized that task context and task complexity influence tail laterality in spider monkeys, and we predicted that monkeys would exhibit strong preferences for using the tail for manipulation to solve out-of-reach feeding problems, but not for using the tail at rest. Our results show that a subset of spider monkeys solved each of the experimental problems through goal-directed tail use (N = 7). However, some tasks were more difficult than others, given the number of monkeys who solved the tasks. Our results supported our predictions regarding laterality in tail use and only partially replicated prior work on tail use preferences in Geoffroy’s spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi). Overall, skilled tail use, but not resting tail use, was highly lateralized in Colombian spider monkeys.

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