, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 45-54,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 14 May 2013

Human-introduced long-term traditions in wild redfronted lemurs?

Abstract

Behavioural traditions have only been described for a small subset of species, and the factors responsible for the maintenance of traditions over time are unclear. Redfronted lemurs are known to learn socially but traditions have not been described in the wild. We conducted a social diffusion experiment over three experimental years with artificial feeding boxes that could be opened in two different ways (pushing or pulling a door). Six out of 14 individuals that participated in at least 2 years exhibited a stable preference: five lemurs maintained a pull and one lemur a push preference, suggesting that habit formation and reinforcement learning may have lead to preferences over time. The remaining individuals exhibited fluctuating preferences and switched between showing a preference or no preference, but never switched between preferences. This instability might have been due to the low level of difficulty and/or the low object specificity of the task. The majority of lemurs additionally scrounged. Scrounging was not influenced by age, sex or success in manipulating the boxes. Thus, redfronted lemurs appear to use the two techniques flexibly but also scrounged opportunistically to get access to the rewards, indicating that traditions might be stabilized by multiple factors.