Social influences on the development of foraging behavior in free-living common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus)



In this study we investigated the extent and pattern of social influences (i.e., the use of a conspecific as a model) on the foraging behavior of immature, wild common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) as a function of the age of individuals. We compared the foraging activities and interactions with subadult and adult group members (older than 15 months) of young infants (1–2 months old), older infants (3–4 months old), and juveniles (5–10 months old). In addition to measuring the intensities of model-independent foraging (MIF) and merely paying attention to the model's foraging activities, we examined the frequencies of three types of model-dependent foraging (MDF): “follow the model”, “manipulate the same object”, and “forage together”. We found that older infants were the most attentive and most socially-influenced foragers among the three age categories in absolute terms, but were not more attentive than young infants given their low foraging activity. Juveniles, in contrast, tended to have reduced overall foraging intensity compared to infants, but showed relatively more MDF in cases in which they observed subadult or adult models. Female models appeared to be more attractive than male models. These findings suggest that infants are generally more attentive to the foraging behavior of subadults and adults than juveniles, with the latter being more influenced when they had observed a model before. These subtle age-dependent effects of social foraging not only extend the assumption that young primates seek information from adults, they also suggest a complex interplay among physical and cognitive maturation, independence, and social dynamics. Am. J. Primatol. 68:1–11, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.