, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 415-422

Drinking from tails: Social learning of a novel behaviour in a group of ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta)

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Several examples have been documented of novel behaviours which have apparently arisen spontaneously in primate groups and then spread through the group by learning. Here we describe the first recorded instance of such an acquired behaviour in a prosimian. The behaviour, consisting of immersing the tail in water and then drinking from the wet tail, was observed in a group of semi free-ranging ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta). Seventeen of 28 animals showed the behaviour, including adult males. Several animals which did not show the behaviour were observed watching and sometimes sharing the wet tail of animals who did. Several incomplete sequences, notably of non-stimulus directed elements, were also seen in non-performers. It is likely that stimulus enhancement is the mechanism of spread of this behaviour through the group, although the presence of the incomplete sequences suggests that imitation is also a possibility.