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Concept: Capuchin monkey


Humans can use hand tools smoothly and effectively in varying circumstances; in other words, skillfully. A few other species of primates crack encased foods using hammer tools and anvils. Are they skilled? Positioning the food on the anvil so that it does not fall off when struck is a component of skilled cracking. We discovered that bearded capuchin monkeys deliberately place palm nuts in a relatively stable position on the anvil before striking them. In the first experiment, we marked the meridians of palm nuts where they stopped when rolled on a flat surface (“Stop meridian”). We videotaped monkeys as they cracked these nuts on an anvil. In playback we coded the position of the Stop meridian prior to each strike. Monkeys typically knocked the nuts on the anvil a few times before releasing them in a pit. They positioned the nuts so that the Stop meridian was within 30 degrees of vertical with respect to gravity more often than expected, and the nuts rarely moved after the monkeys released them. In the second experiment, 14 blindfolded people (7 men) asked to position marked nuts on an anvil as if to crack them reliably placed them with the Stop meridian in the same position as the monkeys did. In the third experiment, two people judged that palm nuts are most bilaterally symmetric along a meridian on, or close to, the Stop meridian. Thus the monkeys reliably placed the more symmetrical side of the nuts against the side of the pit, and the nuts reliably remained stationary when released. Monkeys apparently used information gained from knocking the nut to achieve this position. Thus, monkeys place the nuts skillfully, strategically managing the fit between the variable nuts and pits in the anvil, and skilled placement depends upon information generated by manual action.

Concepts: Symmetry, Primate, Learning, Leadership, Capuchin monkey, Strike action


Wild and captive capuchin monkeys will anoint themselves with a range of strong smelling substances including millipedes, ants, limes and onions. Hypotheses for the function of the behaviour range from medicinal to social. However, capuchin monkeys may anoint in contact with other individuals, as well as individually. The function of social anointing has also been explained as either medicinal or to enhance social bonding. By manipulating the abundance of an anointing resource given to two groups of tufted capuchins, we tested predictions derived from the main hypotheses for the functions of anointing and in particular, social anointing. Monkeys engaged in individual and social anointing in similar proportions when resources were rare or common, and monkeys holding resources continued to join anointing groups, indicating that social anointing has functions beyond that of gaining access to resources. The distribution of individual and social anointing actions on the monkeys' bodies supports a medicinal function for both individual and social anointing, that requires no additional social bonding hypotheses. Individual anointing targets hard-to-see body parts that are harder to groom, whilst social anointing targets hard-to-reach body parts. Social anointing in capuchins is a form of mutual medication that improves coverage of topically applied anti-parasite medicines.

Concepts: Scientific method, Medicine, Primate, Pharmaceutical drug, Capuchin monkey, Tufted Capuchin, Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, Millipede


Background: Canova activates macrophages and indirectly induces lymphocyte proliferation. Here we evaluated the effects of Canova in cyclophosphamide-treated non-human primates. Methods: Twelve Cebus apella were evaluated. Four animals were treated with Canova only. Eight animals were treated with two doses of cyclophosphamide (50mg/kg) and four of these animals received Canova. Body weight, biochemistry and hematologic analyses were performed for 40days. Micronucleus and comet assays were performed for the evaluation of DNA damage. Results: We observed that cyclophosphamide induced abnormal WBC count in all animals. However, the group treated with cyclophosphamide plus Canova presented a higher leukocyte count than that which received only cyclophosphamide. Cyclophosphamide induced micronucleus and DNA damage in all animals. The frequency of these alterations was significantly lower in the Canova group than in the group without this medicine. Conclusions: Our results demonstrated that Canova treatment minimizes cyclophosphamide myelotoxicity in C. apella.

Concepts: Immune system, White blood cell, Allergy, Hematology, Leukemia, Primate, Spleen, Capuchin monkey


The behavioural repertoires and time budgets of 2 captive groups and 1 semi-free-ranging group of Cebus olivaceus were determined with the aim to assess the impact of the zoo environment on behaviour. The repertoires were qualitatively similar between groups and to those reported for wild troops, but the captive groups showed self-directed and stereotyped behaviours not reported in the wild. The differences in repertoires between groups were easily associated with the opportunity to interact directly with the visitors, with particularities of the enclosure and with the severity of confinement. Overall, females spent more time foraging than males in the 2 captive groups, and adults rested and watched more than subadults in all the groups. Time budgets were dominated by foraging, resting, movement and affiliative interactions, but their relative importance varied between groups, with foraging being especially prominent in the most confined group. The time budgets also varied qualitatively from those reported for wild troops. We conclude the species is behaviourally able to adjust to captivity, but the slight differences along the continuum from wild to semi-free to captive are suggestive of mild stress or social tension probably due to unstimulating environmental conditions, high visitor pressure and deviations from typical sex-age group composition. © 2015 S. Karger AG, Basel.

Concepts: Primate, Behavior, Human behavior, Capuchin monkey, Cebidae, Capuchin monkeys, Weeper Capuchin


The insight that animals' cognitive abilities are linked to their evolutionary history, and hence their ecology, provides the framework for the comparative approach. Despite primates renowned dietary complexity and social cognition, including cooperative abilities, we here demonstrate that cleaner wrasse outperform three primate species, capuchin monkeys, chimpanzees and orang-utans, in a foraging task involving a choice between two actions, both of which yield identical immediate rewards, but only one of which yields an additional delayed reward. The foraging task decisions involve partner choice in cleaners: they must service visiting client reef fish before resident clients to access both; otherwise the former switch to a different cleaner. Wild caught adult, but not juvenile, cleaners learned to solve the task quickly and relearned the task when it was reversed. The majority of primates failed to perform above chance after 100 trials, which is in sharp contrast to previous studies showing that primates easily learn to choose an action that yields immediate double rewards compared to an alternative action. In conclusion, the adult cleaners' ability to choose a superior action with initially neutral consequences is likely due to repeated exposure in nature, which leads to specific learned optimal foraging decision rules.

Concepts: Psychology, Human, Decision making, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Primate, Ape, Capuchin monkey


Developmental psychologists are increasingly interested in young children’s evaluations of individuals based on third-party interactions. Studies have shown that infants react negatively to agents who display harmful intentions toward others, and to those who behave unfairly. We describe experimental studies of capuchin monkeys' and pet dogs' differential reactions to people who are helpful or unhelpful in third-party contexts, and monkeys' responses to people who behave unfairly in exchanges of objects with a third party. We also present evidence that capuchin monkeys monitor the context of failures to help and violations of reciprocity, and that intentionality is one factor underlying their social evaluations of individuals whom they see interacting with others. We conclude by proposing some questions for studies of nonhuman species' third party-based social evaluations.

Concepts: Interaction, Sociology, Primate, Developmental psychology, Capuchin monkey, ConTeXt, Humans, Capuchin monkeys


The breadth of human generosity is unparalleled in the natural world, and much research has explored the mechanisms underlying and motivating human prosocial behavior. Recent work has focused on the spread of prosocial behavior within groups through paying-it-forward, a case of human prosociality in which a recipient of generosity pays a good deed forward to a third individual, rather than back to the original source of generosity. While research shows that human adults do indeed pay forward generosity, little is known about the origins of this behavior. Here, we show that both capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) and 4-year-old children pay forward positive and negative outcomes in an identical testing paradigm. These results suggest that a cognitively simple mechanism present early in phylogeny and ontogeny leads to paying forward positive, as well as negative, outcomes.

Concepts: Primate, Capuchin monkey, Tufted Capuchin, Golden-bellied Capuchin


The remarkable ecological and demographic success of humanity is largely attributed to our capacity for cumulative culture, with knowledge and technology accumulating over time, yet the social and cognitive capabilities that have enabled cumulative culture remain unclear. In a comparative study of sequential problem solving, we provided groups of capuchin monkeys, chimpanzees, and children with an experimental puzzlebox that could be solved in three stages to retrieve rewards of increasing desirability. The success of the children, but not of the chimpanzees or capuchins, in reaching higher-level solutions was strongly associated with a package of sociocognitive processes-including teaching through verbal instruction, imitation, and prosociality-that were observed only in the children and covaried with performance.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Cognition, Primate, Knowledge, Problem solving, Capuchin monkey, Order of Friars Minor Capuchin


Studying visual illusions is critical to understanding typical visual perception. We investigated whether rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) and capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) perceived the Delboeuf illusion in a similar manner as human adults (Homo sapiens). To test this, in Experiment 1, we presented monkeys and humans with a relative discrimination task that required subjects to choose the larger of 2 central dots that were sometimes encircled by concentric rings. As predicted, humans demonstrated evidence of the Delboeuf illusion, overestimating central dots when small rings surrounded them and underestimating the size of central dots when large rings surrounded them. However, monkeys did not show evidence of the illusion. To rule out an alternate explanation, in Experiment 2, we presented all species with an absolute classification task that required them to classify a central dot as “small” or “large.” We presented a range of ring sizes to determine whether the Delboeuf illusion would occur for any dot-to-ring ratios. Here, we found evidence of the Delboeuf illusion in all 3 species. Humans and monkeys underestimated central dot size to a progressively greater degree with progressively larger rings. The Delboeuf illusion now has been extended to include capuchin monkeys and rhesus monkeys, and through such comparative investigations we can better evaluate hypotheses regarding illusion perception among nonhuman animals. (PsycINFO Database Record

Concepts: Human, Perception, Primate, Capuchin monkey, Tufted Capuchin, Monkeys in space, Illusion, Optical illusion


The parallel evolution of increased sensorimotor intelligence in humans and capuchins has been linked to the cognitive and manual demands of seasonal extractive faunivory. This hypothesis is attractive on theoretical grounds, but it has eluded widespread acceptance due to lack of empirical data. For instance, the effects of seasonality on the extractive foraging behaviors of capuchins are largely unknown. Here we report foraging observations on four groups of wild capuchins (Cebus capucinus) inhabiting a seasonally dry tropical forest. We also measured intra-annual variation in temperature, rainfall, and food abundance. We found that the exploitation of embedded or mechanically protected invertebrates was concentrated during periods of fruit scarcity. Such a pattern suggests that embedded insects are best characterized as a fallback food for capuchins. We discuss the implications of seasonal extractive faunivory for the evolution of sensorimotor intelligence (SMI) in capuchins and hominins and suggest that the suite of features associated with SMI, including increased manual dexterity, tool use, and innovative problem solving are cognitive adaptations among frugivores that fall back seasonally on extractable foods. The selective pressures acting on SMI are predicted to be strongest among primates living in the most seasonal environments. This model is proffered to explain the differences in tool use between capuchin lineages, and SMI as an adaptation to extractive foraging is suggested to play an important role in hominin evolution.

Concepts: Scientific method, Natural selection, Primate, Hypothesis, Theory, Intelligence, Problem solving, Capuchin monkey