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Keywords:

  • prehension;
  • digit use;
  • preshaping;
  • hand preference;
  • performance;
  • Cebus apella

Abstract

The aim of this study was to analyze the manual patterns used by tufted capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) to retrieve a small food item from a narrow tube, with special attention focused on the independent use of single fingers, fine digit movements, hand preference, and intermanual differences in the time it took the monkeys to obtain the food. The capuchins (n = 20) mainly used their forefinger to extract the food from the tube. The simultaneous use of the index and middle fingers occurred less frequently, and the use of the forefinger in combination with other digits occurred rarely. The capuchins demonstrated a capacity to move single digits independently when the fingers were locating the food inside the tube, and displayed a high mobility of the distal phalanx joints. However, they possessed only a limited capacity to coordinate single fingers in space, and displayed only a slight degree of manual preshaping when they approached the tube. A hand-preference analysis failed to reveal any significant lateral bias for the group, since both adults (≥5 years) and immature individuals (<5 years) of both sexes used either hand with the same frequency. Conversely, a latency analysis showed a significant interaction between the subject's age and performance difference between hands: in adults, but not in immature individuals, the left hand was faster than the right hand in retrieving food. Am. J. Primatol. 69:1–17, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.