Adaptability in stone tool use by wild capuchin monkeys (Sapajus libidinosus)



Capuchin monkeys are well known for population variation in the use of stone tools and the types of food items consumed. In order to determine adaptability in stone tool use, we investigated a never before studied population of wild capuchin monkey (Sapajus libidinosus) displaying terrestrial habits in a Caatinga environment. To carry out this study we recorded physical evidence of the use of stone tools as well as made direct observations through trap cameras. During a 15-month period, we studied a group of Sapajus libidinosus in Serra Talhada, Pernambuco, Brazil. In total, 257 anvils and 395 hammers were identified, characterized, and monitored. We identified five types of food items exploited at these “tool use sites”: Syagrus oleracea (catolé palm), Manihot epruinosa (manioc), Pilosocereus pachycladus (facheiro), Tacinga inamoena (quípa), and Commiphora leptophloeos (imburana de cambão). Five hundred three video clips of capuchin monkeys were recorded, 43 of which involved the use of stone tools. The results indicated evidence of adaptability in tool use by the capuchins. We verified that the rigidity and size of the food item, along with the presence or absence of spines seem to influence the choice of stone tools made by the animals for processing the food. The recurring use of tools for the processing of cacti was especially noteworthy and it appears that the presence of spines predisposes the capuchins to use stones to process them. A significant difference was observed between the characteristics of the anvils and the weight of the hammers according to the food item consumed. The use of tools enabled the animals to access otherwise unavailable or difficult to acquire food items within a Caatinga habitat. Adaptability in the use of stone tools by the capuchin monkey population of Serra Talhada provides an example of the complexity that these primates demonstrate in food processing. Am. J. Primatol. 76:967–977, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.