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Keywords:

  • bearded capuchin monkeys;
  • Cebus libidinosus;
  • foraging;
  • tool use;
  • behavioral traditions

Abstract

The use of stones to crack open encapsulated fruit is widespread among wild bearded capuchin monkeys (Cebus libidinosus) inhabiting savanna-like environments. Some populations in Serra da Capivara National Park (Piauí, Brazil), though, exhibit a seemingly broader toolkit, using wooden sticks as probes, and employing stone tools for a variety of purposes. Over the course of 701.5 hr of visual contact of two wild capuchin groups we recorded 677 tool use episodes. Five hundred and seventeen of these involved the use of stones, and 160 involved the use of sticks (or other plant parts) as probes to access water, arthropods, or the contents of insects' nests. Stones were mostly used as “hammers”—not only to open fruit or seeds, or smash other food items, but also to break dead wood, conglomerate rock, or cement in search of arthropods, to dislodge bigger stones, and to pulverize embedded quartz pebbles (licking, sniffing, or rubbing the body with the powder produced). Stones also were used in a “hammer-like” fashion to loosen the soil for digging out roots and arthropods, and sometimes as “hoes” to pull the loosened soil. In a few cases, we observed the re-utilization of stone tools for different purposes (N=3), or the combined use of two tools—stones and sticks (N=4) or two stones (N=5), as sequential or associative tools. On three occasions, the monkeys used smaller stones to loosen bigger quartz pebbles embedded in conglomerate rock, which were subsequently used as tools. These could be considered the first reports of secondary tool use by wild capuchin monkeys. Am. J. Primatol. 71:242–251, 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.