, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 215-219

Watching the best nutcrackers: what capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) know about others’ tool-using skills

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Abstract

The present work is part of a decade-long study on the spontaneous use of stones for cracking hard-shelled nuts by a semi-free-ranging group of brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). Nutcracking events are frequently watched by other individuals - usually younger, less proficient, and that are well tolerated to the point of some scrounging being allowed by the nutcracker. Here we report findings showing that the choice of observational targets is an active, non-random process, and that observers seem to have some understanding of the relative proficiency of their group mates, preferentially watching the more skilled nutcrackers, which enhances not only scrounging payoffs, but also social learning opportunities.

An erratum to this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10071-005-0014-3.