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Keywords:

  • tool use;
  • percussion;
  • upright stance;
  • nonhuman primate

Abstract

Wild bearded capuchins (Cebus libidinosus, quadrupedal, medium-sized monkeys) crack nuts using large stones. We examined the kinematics and energetics of the nut-cracking action of two adult males and two adult females. From a bipedal stance, the monkeys raised a heavy hammer stone (1.46 and 1.32 kg, from 33 to 77% of their body weight) to an average height of 0.33 m, 60% of body length. Then, they rapidly lowered the stone by flexing the lower extremities and the trunk until the stone contacted the nut. A hit consisting of an upward phase and a downward phase averaged 0.74 s in duration. The upward phase lasted 69% of hit duration. All subjects added discernable energy to the stone in the downward phase. The monkeys exhibited individualized kinematic strategies, similar to those of human weight lifters. Capuchins illustrate that human-like bipedal stance and large body size are unnecessary to break tough objects from a bipedal position. The phenomenon of bipedal nut-cracking by capuchins provides a new comparative reference point for discussions of percussive tool use and bipedality in primates. Am J Phys Anthropol 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.