Short Communication

Journal of Ethology

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 187-189

First online:

Innovative coconut-opening in a semi free-ranging rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta): a case report on behavioral propensities

  • Jordan A. CominsAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Harvard University Email author 
  • , Brian E. RussAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Harvard University
  • , Kelley A. HumbertAffiliated withDepartment of Neurobiology, Harvard University
  • , Marc D. HauserAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Harvard UniversityDepartment of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University

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The present case report provides a description of the emergence of an innovative, highly beneficial foraging behavior in a single rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta) on the island of Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico. Selectively choosing the island’s cement dock and nearby surrounding rocky terrain, our focal subject (ID: 84 J) opens coconuts using two types of underhand tosses: (1) a rolling motion to move it, and (2) a throwing motion up in the air to crack the shell. We discuss this innovative behavior in light of species-specific behavioral propensities.


Innovation Behavioral repertoire Foraging Rhesus macaques