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Concept: Tufted Capuchin


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


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


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


Humans routinely socially evaluate others not only following direct interactions with them but also based on others' interactions with third parties. In other species, ‘eavesdropping’ on third-party interactions is often used to gain information about foraging or mating opportunities, or others individuals' aggressiveness or fighting ability. However, image scoring for potential cooperativeness is less well studied. Here we ask whether a non-human primate species, tufted capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella), socially evaluates humans after witnessing third-party interactions involving a helpful intervention or failure to help. We find that the monkeys accept food less frequently from those who persistently reject another’s requests for help. This negative social evaluation effect is robust across conditions, and tightly linked to explicit refusal to help. Evaluation of potential helpfulness based on third-party interactions may thus not be unique to humans.

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


The effects of aging on the social behavior of nonhuman primates is little understood, especially in New World monkeys. We studied the members of a colony of tufted capuchin monkeys (Sapajus sp.) in order to evaluate age related changes in their social behavior. We conducted observations on 25 subjects aged 4-36 years, living in captive social groups. We found that affiliative interactions (grooming and proximity) decreased with age, and that grooming was increasingly directed to a single preferred partner. Manipulation of objects in the environment also decreased with age, while locomotion and aggression showed no change. Overall, these results concur with previous findings on both human and nonhuman primates, and cast doubts on interpretations of age associated changes in human social behavior that rely of uniquely human advanced cognitive capacities.

Concepts: Psychology, Primate, Ageing, Human behavior, Capuchin monkey, Tufted Capuchin, Golden-bellied Capuchin, Simian


Both human and non-human animals frequently deal with risky decisions in a social environment. Nevertheless, the influence of the social context on decision-making has been scarcely investigated. Here, we evaluated for the first time whether the presence of a conspecific influences risk preferences in rats and in tufted capuchin monkeys. Subjects received a series of choices between a constant, safe option and a variable, risky option, both alone (Alone condition) and when paired with a conspecific (Paired condition). The average payoff of the risky option was always lower than that of the safe option. Overall, the two species differed in their attitude towards risk: whereas rats were indifferent between options, capuchins exhibited a preference for the safe option. In both species, risk preferences changed in the Paired condition compared to the Alone condition, although in an opposite way. Whereas rats increased their risk preferences over time when paired with a conspecific, capuchins chose the risky option less in the Paired condition than in the Alone condition. Moreover, whereas anxiety-like behaviours decreased across sessions in rats, these behaviours where more represented in the Paired condition than in the Alone condition in capuchins. Thus, our findings extends to two distantly-related non-human species the evidence, so far available for human beings, that a decrease in anxiety correspond to an increase in risk preferences, and vice versa. This suggests that the modulation of risk preferences by social influences observed in rats and capuchin monkeys may rely on a common, evolutionarily ancient, mechanism.

Concepts: Human, Decision making, Species, Risk, Primate, Capuchin monkey, Tufted Capuchin, Brown rat


Nutritional stress may predispose individuals to infection, which in turn can have further detrimental effects on physical condition, thus creating an opportunity for reciprocal effects between nutrition and parasitism. Little experimental investigation has been conducted on this “vicious circle” hypothesis in wild animals, especially under natural conditions. We evaluated the reciprocal effects of nutritional status and parasitism using an experimental approach in two groups of wild black capuchin monkeys (Sapajus nigritus). Across two consecutive winters, we collected faecal samples from identified capuchins to determine presence and load of gastrointestinal helminthes, and measured individual body mass as a proxy of physical condition. Food availability was manipulated by provisioning monkeys with bananas, and parasite burdens by applying antiparasitic drugs to selected individuals. We found no effect of antiparasitic drugs on physical condition, but parasite loads decreased in response to high levels of food availability. Our results represent the first experimental evidence that the nutritional status may drive parasite dynamics in a primate.

Concepts: Nutrition, Primate, Capuchin monkey, Tufted Capuchin, Cebidae, Capuchin monkeys, Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, Black Capuchin


The crested capuchin monkey (Sapajus robustus) is an endangered species endemic to the highly fragmented Atlantic Forest of Brazil. Surveys for S. robustus were carried out over a 25-month period (2003-2005) to obtain more precise geographical limits for the western range of the species. Previously published localities for S. robustus were mapped, and each point was given a 25-km radius “buffer zone.” The largest forest remnants in the buffer zones (>300 ha) in Minas Gerais were visited in order to interview the local people and/or survey the forests directly using playback recordings of S. robustus. Camera traps were used in key localities if interviews suggested the presence of capuchins but no animals were sighted during the surveys. Of 127 valid interviews, only 39 people reported the presence of Sapajus in nearby forest fragments. We confirmed the presence of Sapajus in only 19 of these. S. robustus occurred in four, and S. libidinosus, S. nigritus, S. xanthosternos, or S. robustus × S. nigritus (hybrids?) occurred in the remaining 15. Based on our study, the estimated geographical distribution of S. robustus is 119,654 km(2) , which represents a reduction of more than 70,000 km(2) when compared to its formerly described range. The geographical limits as defined in this study are: northeast-the Jequitinhonha River; northwest and west-the Jequitinhonha River; southwest-the Suaçuí Grande River and the Espinhaço mountains; southeast-the Doce River; east-the Atlantic Ocean. A probable hybrid zone where capuchin monkeys have morphological features of both S. nigritus and S. robustus was found between the Santo Antônio and the Suaçuí Grande rivers. The elucidation of the geographical distribution of S. robustus is important for its conservation, facilitating the delineation of priority areas for the creation of reserves and the initiation of studies of the species' ecology and behavior.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Primate, Brazil, Capuchin monkey, Tufted Capuchin, Minas Gerais, Cebidae, Black Capuchin


Learning by watching others can provide valuable information with adaptive consequences, such as identifying the presence of a predator or locating a food source. The extent to which nonhuman animals can gain information by reading the cues of others is often tested by evaluating responses to human gestures, such as a point, and less often evaluated by examining responses to conspecific cues. We tested whether ten brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus [Sapajus] apella) were able to use cues from monkeys and a pointing cue from a human to obtain hidden rewards. A monkey could gain access to a reward hidden in one of two locations by reading a cue from a conspecific (e.g., reaching) or a human pointing. We then tested whether they could transfer this skill from monkeys to humans, from humans to monkeys, and from one conspecific to another conspecific. One group of monkeys was trained and tested using a conspecific as the cue-giver and was then tested with a human cue-giver. The second group of monkeys was trained and tested with a human cue-giver and was then tested with a monkey cue-giver. Monkeys that were successful with a conspecific cue-giver were also tested with a novel conspecific cue-giver. Monkeys learned to use a human point and conspecific cues to obtain rewards. Monkeys that had learned to use the cues of a conspecific to obtain rewards performed significantly better than expected by chance when they were transferred to the cues of a novel conspecific. Monkeys that learned to use a human point to obtain rewards performed significantly better than expected by chance when tested while observing conspecific cues. Some evidence suggested that transferring between conspecific cue-givers occurred with more facility than transferring across species. Results may be explained by simple rules of association learning and stimulus generalization; however, spontaneous flexible use of gestures across conspecifics and between different species may indicate capuchins can generalize learned social cues within and partially across species.

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


We investigated problem solving abilities of capuchin monkeys via the “floating object problem,” a task in which the subject must use creative problem solving to retrieve a favored food item from the bottom of a clear tube. Some great apes have solved this problem by adding water to raise the object to a level at which it can be easily grabbed. We presented seven capuchins with the task over eight trials (four “dry” and four “wet”). None of the subjects solved the task, indicating that no capuchin demonstrated insightful problem solving under these experimental conditions. We then investigated whether capuchins would emulate a solution to the task. Seven subjects observed a human model solve the problem by pouring water from a cup into the tube, which brought the object to the top of the tube, allowing the subject to retrieve it. Subjects were then allowed to interact freely with an unfilled tube containing the object in the presence of water and objects that could be used to solve the task. While most subjects were unable to solve the task after viewing a demonstrator solve it, one subject did so, but in a unique way. Our results are consistent with some previous results in great ape species and indicate that capuchins do not spontaneously solve the floating object problem via insight.

Concepts: Primate, Hominidae, Chimpanzee, Ape, Object, Problem solving, Capuchin monkey, Tufted Capuchin