Food sharing in lion tamarins: Tests of three hypotheses

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Abstract

Infant marmosets and tamarins (Callitrichidae) frequently receive food from older group members. Three possible functions of food sharing in lion tamarins were examined experimentally. The first hypothesis, that food sharing ensures that infants receive sufficient food even if it is difficult for them to acquire it themselves, was tested by varying the ease with which infants could reach a food source. When access to food was restricted, infants fed themselves less, received more food from others, and had a higher success rate in begging attempts. The second hypothesis, that food sharing helps teach infants an appropriate diet, was tested by presenting fruits that were novel to infants. Although infants fed themselves less under these conditions, adults were less likely to share novel foods than familiar foods. The final experiment compared food sharing when food was abundant with behavior when food items were presented singly. Infants fed themselves less and received more food from others when food items were rare. These results suggest that food sharing in lion tamarins helps to ensure that infants receive adequate amounts of food which is difficult to locate or acquire, but that it is not involved in teaching infants which foods they should eat. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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