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Keywords:

  • antipredator behavior;
  • alarm calling;
  • snake-species discrimination;
  • Cebus capucinus

Young animals are known to direct alarm calls at a wider range of species than adults. Our field study examined age-related differences in the snake-directed antipredator behavior of infant, juvenile, and adult white-faced capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus) in terms of alarm calling, looking behavior, and aggressive behavior. In the first experiment, we exposed infant and juvenile white-faced capuchins to realistic-looking inflatable models of their two snake predators, the boa constrictior (Boa constrictor) and neotropical rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus) and a white airplane as a novel control. In the second experiment, infants, juveniles, and adults were presented photographic models of a coiled boa constrictor, rattlesnake, indigo snake (Drymarchon corais), a noncapuchin predator, and a white snake-like model. We found that antipredator behavior changed during the immature stage. Infants as young as 4 months old were able to recognize snakes and display antipredator behavior, but engaged in less snake-model discrimination than juveniles. All age classes exhibited a lower response to the white snake-like model, indicating that the absence of color and snake-scale patterns affected snake recognition. Infants also showed a higher level of vigilance after snake-model detection as exhibited by a higher proportion of time spent looking and head cocking at the models. Aggressive antipredator behavior was found in all age classes, but was more prevalent in juveniles and adults than infants. This study adds to the knowledge of development of antipredator behavior in primates by showing that, although alarm calling behavior and predator recognition appear at a very young age in capuchins, snake-species discrimination does not become apparent until the juvenile stage. Am. J. Primatol. 75:281-291, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.