Substrate optimization in nut cracking by capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella)



We conducted an experiment to examine the effect of substrate on the nut-cracking behavior of a group of semicaptive capuchin monkeys. We wanted to determine whether tufted capuchin monkeys were selective in choosing the substrate on which they pound nuts, and whether the choice of substrate affected the outcome. Eight adult females and eight juveniles were provided with nuts in the outdoor facility. We found that 1) all adult females and three young capuchins succeeded in cracking nuts; 2) they preferred the hardest substrates (concrete and stone); 3) there is a link between the substrate and the amount of time needed to crack a nut; 4) most young capuchins used various substrates, some of which were inadequate, in a haphazard manner; and 5) there are different forms of nut cracking. We conclude that adult capuchins choose the hardest substrates, and that these substrates support efficient cracking. Am. J. Primatol. 68:1–8, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.