Cup tool use by squirrel monkeys
Buckmaster CL, Hyde SA, Parker KJ, Lyons DM
Am J Primatol. 2015; 77(12):1323-32.
Captive-born male and female squirrel monkeys spontaneously 'invented' a cup tool use technique to Contain (i.e., hold and control) food they reduced into fragments for consumption and to Contain water collected from a valve to drink. Food cup use was observed more frequently than water cup use. Observations indicate that 68% (n = 39/57) of monkeys in this population used a cup (a plastic slip cap) to Contain food, and a subset of these monkeys, 10% (n = 4/39), also used a cup to Contain water. Cup use was optional and did not replace, but supplemented, the hand/arm-to-mouth eating and direct valve drinking exhibited by all members of the population. Strategies monkeys used to bring food and cups together for food processing activity at preferred upper-level perching areas, in the arboreal-like environment in which they lived, provides evidence that monkeys may plan food processing activity with the cups. Specifically, prior to cup use monkeys obtained a cup first before food, or obtained food and a cup from the floor simultaneously, before transporting both items to upper-level perching areas. After food processing activity with cups monkeys rarely dropped the cups and more often placed the cups onto perching. Monkeys subsequently returned to use cups that they previously placed on perching after food processing activity. The latter behavior is consistent with the possibility that monkeys may keep cups at preferred perching sites for future food processing activity and merits experimental investigation. Reports of spontaneous tool use by squirrel monkeys are rare and this is the first report of population-level tool use. These findings offer insights into the cognitive abilities of squirrel monkeys and provide a new context for behavior studies with this genus and for comparative studies with other primates.
© 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.