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Keywords:

  • capuchins;
  • tool use;
  • Costa Rica;
  • cognition;
  • problem solving

Abstract

From September through November 2000 we conducted an experimental field study of tool use in a group of 15 wild white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus) in Costa Rica. The problem presented to the capuchins involved the use of wooden dowels as probes to obtain a food reward (two bananas) located inside a clear Plexiglas box. Specifically, the task required the capuchins to manually insert a dowel into any of six holes drilled into the box in order to push the bananas off a shelf. The banana could then be retrieved through a large opening at the bottom of the box. The capuchins visited the tool-use platform 702 times over the course of 55 consecutive days and under several experimental conditions. During the first 21 days of the study, they explored the box but made no attempt to touch or pick up the dowels. Even after we placed the dowels in the holes, the capuchins only occasionally manipulated them. Overall, the results indicate that the capuchins did not use a tool to solve this novel foraging problem. Am. J. Primatol. 62:165–170, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.