Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 13
  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: October 2009

13 - Do brown capuchins socially learn foraging skills?

    • By Sue Boinski, Department of Anthropology, 1112 Turlington Hall, PO Box 117305, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-7305, USA, Robert P. Quatrone, Trevor Day School, 1 West 88th st., New York, NY 10024, USA, Karen Sughrue, 205 Forest Resources Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA, Lara Selvaggi, 42 Lexington Avenue, Apt 3, Greenwich, CT 06830, USA, Malinda Henry, Behavior, Ecology, Evolution and Systematics Program, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA, Claudia M. Stickler, College of Natural Resources and Environment, Box 116455, 105 Black Hall, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-6455, USA, Lisa M. Rosea, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, University of British Columbia. 6303 NW Marine Drive, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6T 1Z1, Canada
  • Edited by Dorothy M. Fragaszy, University of Georgia, Susan Perry, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • DOI:
  • pp 365-390



Tool use and complex object manipulation skills are of intense interest to many disciplines. Yet the number of nonhuman primate taxa exploited in these comparative studies is usually limited to the great apes, and especially the chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes. The focus on chimpanzees is understandable. In the wild, chimpanzees greatly exceed all other apes in the frequency and complexity of tool manufacture and object and tool use (Sugiyama, 1997; Whiten et al., 1999). In captivity, however, tool use and complex object manipulation is common and can be readily elicited from all great ape species (Visalberghi et al., 1995).

In recent years, primatologists and comparative psychologists have paid increasing attention to the manipulative skills of capuchins, the New World primate genus Cebus. Not only does the proclivity of capuchins to use tools surpass that of all other monkeys either in the Old or the New World, but in many respects the spontaneous manipulative activities and dexterity of capuchins and chimpanzees share many characteristics (Anderson, 1996; Antinucci and Visalberghi, 1986; Panger, 1998; Parker and Gibson, 1977). Capuchins are well known for strenuous arthropod-extraction techniques and complex manipulation of difficult to process fruits (Fragaszy and Boinski, 1995; Janson and Boinski, 1992). Pounding and rubbing of fruits, invertebrates, and other food items against hard substrates is another food-processing technique exhibited by all four capuchin species (C. apella, brown capuchin, in Colombia and Peru: Izawa and Mizuno, 1977; Struhsaker and Leland, 1977; Terborgh, 1983; C. albifrons, white-fronted capuchin in Peru: Terborgh, 1983; C. capucinus, white-faced capuchin, in Costa Rica: Panger, 1998; Rose, 2001; and C. olivaceus, wedge-capped capuchin, in Venezuela: Fragaszy and Boinski, 1995; Robinson, 1986).

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Anderson, J. R. 1996. Chimpanzees and capuchin monkeys: Comparative cognition. In Reaching into Thought: The Minds of the Great Apes, ed. A. Russon, K. Bard, and S. Parker, pp. 23–56. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press
Anderson, J. R. and Henneman, M. C. 1994. Solutions to a tool use problem in a pair of Cebus apella. Mammalia, 58, 351–361
Antinucci, F. and Visalberghi, E. 1986. Tool use in Cebus apella: a case study. International Journal of Primatology, 54, 138–145
Bard, K. A. and Vauclair, J. 1989. What's the tool and where is the goal?Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12, 590–591
Beck, B. 1980. Animal Tool Behavior: The Use and Manufacture of Tools by Animals. New York: Garland
Boesch, C. and Boesch, H. 1984. Mental map in chimpanzees: an analysis of hammer transports for nut cracking. Primates, 25, 160–170
Boesch, C. and Boesch, H. 1993. Diversity of tool use and tool-making in wild chimpanzees. In The Use of Tools by Human and Nonhuman Primates, ed. A. Berthelet and J. Chavaillon, pp. 158–168. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Boinski, S. 1988. Use of a club by a white-faced capuchin (Cebus capucinus) to attack a venomous snake (Bothrops asper). American Journal of Primatology, 14, 177–179
Boinski, S., Quatrone, R., and Swarts, H. 2000. Substrate and tool use by brown capuchins in Suriname: ecological contexts and cognitive bases. American Anthropologist, 102, 741–761
Chapman, C. A. 1987. Flexibility in diets of three species of Costa Rican primates. Folia Primatologica, 29, 90–105
Chapman, C. A. and Fedigan, L. M. 1990. Dietary differences between neighboring Cebus capucinus groups: local traditions, food availability, or response to food profitability?Folia Primatologica, 54, 177–186
Costello, M. B. and Fragaszy, D. M. 1988. Prehension in Cebus and Saimiri: I. Grip type and hand preference. American Journal of Primatology, 15, 235–245
Custance, D., Whiten, A., and Fredman, T. 1999. Social learning of an artificial fruit task in capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 113, 13–23
Waal, F. B. M. 1989. Food sharing and reciprocal obligations among chimpanzees. Journal of Human Evolution, 18, 433–459
de Waal, F. B. M. 1997. Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape. Berkeley, CA: University of Berkeley Press
Waal, F. B. M. and Bergei, M. L. 2000. Payment for labour in monkeys. Nature, 404, 563
Di Bitetti, M. S. and Janson, C. H. 2001. Social foraging and the finder's share in capuchin monkeys, Cebus apella. Animal Behaviour, 62, 47–56
Fernandes, M. E. B. 1991. Tool use and predation of oysters (Crassostrea rhizophorea) by the tufted capuchin, Cebus apella apella, in brackish water mangrove swamp. Primates, 3, 529–531
Fragaszy, D. M. and Adams-Curtis, L. E. 1991. Environmental challenges in groups of capuchins. In Primate Responses to Environmental Change, ed. H. O. Box, pp. 239–264. New York: Chapman & Hall
Fragaszy, D. and Boinski, S. 1995. Patterns of individual choice and efficiency of foraging and diet in the wedge-capped capuchin monkey, Cebus olivaceus. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 109, 339–34
Fragaszy, D., Boinski, S., and Whipple, J. 1992. Behavioral sampling in the field: comparison of individual and group sampling methods. American Journal of Primatology, 26, 259–275
Fragaszy, D., Feuerstein, J., and Mitra, D. 1997. Transfers of food from adults to infants in tufted capuchins (Cebus apella). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 111, 194–200
Galetti, M. and Pedroni, F. 1994. Seasonal diet of capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) in a semi-deciduous forest in south-east Brazil. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 10, 27–39
Guillotin, M, , Dubost G, , Sabatier D. 1994. Food choice and food competition among the three major primate species of French Guiana. Journal of Zoology, 233, 551–579
Ingmanson, E. J. 1996. Tool-using behavior in wild Pan paniscus: social and ecological considerations. In Reaching into Thought: The Minds of the Great Apes, ed. A. E. Russon, K. A. Bard, and S. T. Parker, pp. 190–210. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Inoue-Nakamaura, N. and Matsuzawa, T. 1997. Development of stone tool use by wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 111, 159–173
Izawa, K. 1979. Foods and feeding behavior of wild black-capped capuchins (Cebus apella). Primates, 18, 773–792
Izawa, K. and Mizuno, A. 1977. Palm-fruit cracking behavior of wild black-capped capuchin (C. apella). Primates, 18, 773–792
Janson, C. H. 1990. Social correlates of individual spatial choice in foraging groups of brown capuchins. Animal Behaviour, 40, 910–921
Janson, C. H. and Boinski, S. 1992. Morphological and behavioral adaptations for foraging in generalist primates: the case of the Cebines. American Journal of Primatology, 88, 483–498
Janson, C. H., Stiles, E. W., and White, D. W. 1986. Selection on plant fruiting traits by brown capuchin monkeys: a multivariate approach. In Frugivores and Seed Dispersal, ed. A. Estrada and T. H. Fleming, pp. 83–92. Dordrecht: W. Junk
Kay, R. F., Madden, R. H., Schaik, C., and Higdon, D. 1997. Primate species richness is determined by plant productivity: implications for conservation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 94, 13023–13027
Klüver, H. 1933. Behavior Mechanisms by Monkeys. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press
Kummer, H. and Goodall, J. 1985. Conditions of innovative behavior in primates. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B, 308, 203–214
Langguth, A. and Alonso, C. 1997. Capuchin monkeys in the Caatinga: tool use and food habits during drought. Neotropical Primates, 5, 77–78
Lavallee, A. C. 1999. Capuchin (C. apella) tool use in a captive naturalistic environment. International Journal of Primatology, 20, 399–414
Lepsch-Cunha, N. and Mori, S. A. 1999. Reproductive phenology and mating potential in a low density tree population of Couratari multiflora (Lecythidaceae) in central Amazonia. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 15, 97–121
McGrew, W. C. 1992. Chimpanzee Material Culture: Implications for Human Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
McGrew, W. C. and Marchant, L. F. 1997. Using the tools and hand: manual laterality and elementary technology in Cebus spp. and Pan spp. International Journal of Primatology, 18, 787–810
Mitchell, B. 1989. Resources, group behavior, and infant development in white-faced capuchin monkeys, Cebus capucinus. Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley
Mittermeier, R. A. and Roosmalen, M. G. M. 1981. Preliminary observations on habitat utilization and diet in eight Surinam monkeys. Folia Primatologica, 36, 1–39
Mori, S. A. 1992. The Brazil nut industry – past, present, and future. In Sustainable Harvest and Marketing of Rain Forest Products, ed. M. Plotkin and L. Famarole, pp. 241–251. Washington, DC: Island Press
Mori, S. A. and Lepsch-Cunha, N. 1995. Lecythidaceae of a central Amazonian moist forest. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden, 75, 1–55
Mori, S. A. and Prance, G. T. 1987. A guide to collecting Lecythidaceae. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 74, 321–330
Mori, S. A., Becker, P., and Kincaid, D. 2001. Lecythidaceae of a central Amazonian lowland forest: implications for conservation. In Lessons from Amazonia, ed. R. O. Bierregard Jr., C. Gascon, T. E. Lovejoy, and R. Mesquita. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
Oliveira-Filho, A. T. and Galetti, M. 1996. Seed predation of Cariniana estrellensis (Lecythidaceae) by black howler monkeys, Alouatta carya. Primates, 37, 87–90
Ottoni, E. B. and Mannu, M. 2001. Semifree-ranging tufted capuchins (Cebus apella) spontaneously use tools to crack open nuts. International Journal of Primatology, 22, 347–358
Panger, M. A. 1998. Object-use in free-ranging white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus) in Costa Rica. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 106, 311–321
Parker, S. T. and Gibson, K. R. 1977. Object manipulation, tool use and sensorimotor intelligence as feeding adaptations in Cebus monkeys and great apes. Journal of Human Evolution, 6, 623–641
Peres, C. A. 1991. Seed predation on Cariniana micrantha (Lecythidaceae) by brown capuchin monkeys in Central Amazonia. Biotropica, 23, 262–270
Peres, C. A. 1999. Effects of subsistence hunting and forest types on the structure of Amazonian primate communities. In Primate Communities, ed. J. G. Fleagle, C. Janson, and K. E. Reed, pp. 268–283. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Peres, C. A., Schiesari, L. C., and DiasLeme, C. L. 1997. Vertebrate predation of Brazil-nuts (Bertholletia excelsa, Lecythidaceae), an agouti-dispersed Amazonian seed crop: a test of the escape hypothesis. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 13, 69–79
Prance, G. T. and Mori, S. A. 1978. Observations on the fruit and seeds of neotropical Lecythidaceae. Brittonia, 30, 21–33
Reichart, H. 1993. Management Plan for Raleighvallen Nature Preserve, 1993–1998. Paramaribo, Suriname: Suriname Nature Conservation Foundation
Robinson, J. G. 1986. Seasonal variation in the use of time and space by the wedge-capped capuchin, Cebus olivaceus. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, 431, 1–60
Rose, L. M. 2001. Meat and the early human diet: insights from Neotropical primate studies. In Meat-eating and Human Evolution, ed. C. B. Stanford and H. T. Bunn, pp. 141–158. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Shettleworth, S. 1998. Cognition, Evolution, and Behavior. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Stevenson, P. R. 2001. The relationship between fruit production and primate abundance in Neotropical communities. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 72, 161–178
Struhsaker, T. T. and Leland, L. 1977. Palm-nut smashing by Cebus a. apella in Colombia. Biotropica, 9, 124–126
Sugiyama, Y. 1997. Social tradition and the use of tool-composites by wild chimpanzees. Evolutionary Anthropology, 6, 23–27
Terborgh, J. 1983. Five New World Primates: A Study in Comparative Ecology. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
Terborgh, J. and Andreson, E. 1998. The composition of Amazonian forests: patterns at local and regional scales. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 14, 645–664
Tomasello, M. and Call, J. 1997. Primate Cognition. Oxford: Oxford University Press
van Roosmalen, M. G. M. 1985. Fruits of the Guyanan Flora. Utrecht: Institute of Systematic Botany
Roosmalen, M. G. M., Mittermeier, R. A., and Fleagle, J. G. 1988. Diet of the northern bearded saki (Chiropotes satanas chiropotes): a neotropical seed predator. American Journal of Primatology, 14, 11–35
Schaik, C. P., Deaner, R. O., and Merrill, M. Y. 1999. The conditions of tool use in primates: implications for the evolution of material culture. Journal of Human Evolution, 36, 719–741
Vevers, G. M. and Weiner, J. S. 1963. Use of a tool by a captive capuchin monkey. In The Primates, Symposia of the Zoological Society of London, ed. J. Napier and N. A. Barnicot, pp. 115–117. London: Zoological Society of London
Visalberghi, E. 1993. Tool use in a South American monkey species: an overview of the characteristics and limitations of tool use in Cebus apella. In The Use of Tools by Human and Non-Human Primates, ed. A. Berthelet and J. Chavaillon, pp. 118–131. Oxford: Clarendon Press
Visalberghi, E. 1997. Success and understanding in cognitive tasks: a comparison between Cebus apella and Pan troglodytes. International Journal of Primatology, 18, 811–830
Visalberghi, E. and Limongelli, L. 1994. Lack of comprehension of cause–effect relations in tool-using Capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 108, 15–22
Visalberghi, E. and Limongelli, L. 1996. Acting and understanding: tool use revisited through the minds of capuchin monkeys. In Reaching into Thought: The Minds of the Great Apes, ed. A. Russon, K. Bard, and S. Parker, pp. 57–79. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Visalberghi, E., Fragaszy, D. M., and Savage-Rumbaugh, S. 1995. Performance in a tool-using task by common chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), bonobos (Pan paniscus), an orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), and capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 109, 52–60
Whiten, A., Goodall, J., McGrew, W. C., Nishida, T., Reynolds, V., Sugiyama, Y., Tutin, C. E. G., Wrangham, R. W., and Boesch, C. 1999. Chimpanzee cultures. Nature, 399, 682–685
Whitney, E. N. and Rolles, S. R. 1993. Understanding Nutrition. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing