Animal Cognition

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 255–262 | Cite as

Discrimination of functionally appropriate and inappropriate throwing tools by captive tufted capuchins (Cebus apella)

  • Theodore Avery Evans
  • Gregory Charles Westergaard
Original Article


A tool-throwing task was used to test whether capuchin monkeys understand the difference between functionally appropriate and functionally inappropriate tools. A group of monkeys was trained to obtain a sticky treat from a container outside their enclosure using a projectile attached to one end of an anchored line. Subsequently, these monkeys were given choice tests between functional and nonfunctional versions of tools used in training. A different feature of the tool was varied between alternatives in each choice test. The monkeys chose to use functional tools significantly more often than nonfunctional tools in early exposures to each choice test. A second experiment tested whether these subjects, as well as a second group of minimally trained participants, could distinguish between functional and nonfunctional tools that appeared different from those used in training. A new set of design features was varied between tools in these choice tests. All participants continued to choose functional tools significantly more often than nonfunctional tools, regardless of their tool-throwing experience or the novel appearance of the tools. These results suggest that capuchin monkeys, like chimpanzees studied in similar experiments, are sensitive to a variety of functionally relevant tool features.


Tool use Cognition Capuchin Cebus 



This research was supported by the National Institute of Health grant no. R03HD39647-01A1 and was conducted in compliance with the laws and ethical standards of the United States of America. We thank Dr. Sue Howell for her comments on the manuscript and for her assistance with data analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Theodore Avery Evans
    • 1
  • Gregory Charles Westergaard
    • 1
  1. 1.Alpha Genesis Inc.YemasseeUSA

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