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Unusual auditory display in wild capuchin monkeys

20.12.2006
This study observes an unusual auditory display of a population of wild Capuchin monkeys. The monkeys were observed to bang stones in a context which suggests this to be a predator-deterrent behaviour. Published in the journal "Folia Primatologica".

Primates often react to possible predators by using intimidation displays, although the occurrence of these displays is dependent on the risk of predation. Functional explanations for these kinds of displays range from sexual selection to predator deterrence. The ability to respond to different predators can be socially acquired, and social traditions could explain population differences in response to the same potential predator.

In this study, wild groups of Cebus apella libidinosus are reported to bang stones to produce sound in a remarkable aggressive display. Six wild groups were observed, suggesting the primary function is a predator-deterrent behaviour. Although banging objects is an innate behaviour in capuchin monkeys, in all wild groups observed so far it has been observed only in a foraging context. Stone banging is a novel behavioural variant that is most likely learned socially. The absence of this display in other populations of capuchins, which have access to stones, suggests that stone banging could be a social tradition in the population studied.

Carla Holmes | alfa
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