Evaluating social influences on food-processing behavior in white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus)



Interpopulation variability in patterns of food processing, similar to what is described as “traditional” or “cultural” variation in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), was identified in white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus). However, recent comparisons of food processing in capuchins were conducted only at the population level, with relatively little attention given to variability among groups, age/sex classes, or individuals. This paper examines variability in the processing of specific food types within the context of various social networks (i.e., patterns of association, rank, and kinship) among free-ranging Cebus capucinus at Santa Rosa National Park in Costa Rica. We collected data on two groups of white-faced capuchins in 2001, identifying rates of “food interest” for each individual, as well as forms of processing for specific food types. Juveniles exhibited the most interest in the food-processing behavior of other group members, and food interest was directed most frequently toward adult females. We identified distinctive processing techniques for several food items (Luehea candida pods, Sloanea terniflora fruits, and caterpillars) that facilitated comparisons among individuals within groups. Food-processing techniques for Sloanea fruit and caterpillars appeared to vary independently of the social networks examined in this study. However, we found evidence that variation in Luehea candida processing is to some degree linked to both patterns of association and social rank. The potential influence of these variables on observed food processing patterns warrants further scrutiny. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.