Pre-retirement predator encounters alter the morning behavior of captive marmosets (Callithrix geoffroyi)



Limited data are available on the long-term effect an encounter with a predator has on its potential prey. Anecdotal reports from field research indicate that even unsuccessful attacks by predators on callitrichids have long-lasting effects. The subjects for this study were two groups of Geoffroy's marmosets (Callithrix geoffroyi) housed outside, off exhibit, at the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Before they retired in the evening, the marmosets were observed under one of three conditions: snake model, cloth control, and no-stimulus control. Data were collected the following morning for 1 hr after the animals emerged from the sleeping box. Compared to control conditions, exposure to the snake model before retirement the previous evening was associated with significantly more vigilance checks (i.e., inspecting the area where the stimulus was last seen), and a delay in beginning to forage on the ground. These results suggest that callitrichids use recent threatening experiences to guide their vigilance behavior 12 hr after the threat is detected, and that they adjust their early morning behavior in response to potential predatory threats. Am. J. Primatol. 63:75–85, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.