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Keywords:

  • innovation;
  • problem solving;
  • social learning;
  • sex ratio;
  • lemur

Abstract

Recent years have witnessed extensive research into problem solving and innovation in primates, yet lemurs have not been subjected to the same level of attention as apes and monkeys, and the social context in which novel behavior appears has rarely been considered. We gave novel foraging puzzlebox devices to seven groups of ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegata and Varecia rubra) to examine the factors affecting rates of innovation and social learning. We found, across a range of group sex ratios, that animals of the less-represented sex were more likely to contact and solve the puzzlebox sooner than those of the more-represented sex. We established that while some individuals were able to solve the puzzleboxes there was no evidence of social learning. Our findings are consistent with previously reported male deference as a sexual strategy, but we conclude that the need for male deference diminishes when, within a group, males are rare. Am. J. Primatol. 73:1210–1221, 2011. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.