A team of researchers, led by University of Georgia psychologist Dorothy Fragaszy, has just published the first direct scientific report of tool use among a population of wild capuchin monkeys. There have been reports of single instances of this behavior but never of a whole population using tools routinely over a long period of time.
Using remarkably heavy stones probably transported to an "anvil" site in northeastern Brazil, these cat-sized monkeys routinely crack palm nuts, which grow in clusters close to the ground. Though this nut-cracking behavior has been common knowledge among local residents for years, this is the first scientific report to confirm a behavior previously studied only in wild populations of chimpanzees.
The study was just published online as the cover story in the American Journal of Primatology and will be published in the hard-copy version of that journal later this month. Co-authors of the journal are Patricia Izar and Eduardo Ottoni of the University of São Paulo, Elizabetta Visalberghi of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche in Rome, and Marino Gomes de Oliveira of the Fundacão BioBrasil in Bahia, Brazil. "One of the most significant things about this research is that we see the behavior in an entire population and not in isolated individuals," said Fragaszy, who is considered one of the worlds top experts on capuchin monkeys. "Also, it is the first time this behavior has been observed in wild capuchins."
Kim Carlyle | EurekAlert!
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