Animal Cognition

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 83–96 | Cite as

The use of fruiting synchrony by foraging mangabey monkeys: a ‘simple tool’ to find fruit

  • K. R. L. JanmaatEmail author
  • C. A. Chapman
  • R. Meijer
  • K. Zuberbühler
Original Paper


Previous research has shown that a considerable number of primates can remember the location and fruiting state of individual trees in their home range. This enables them to relocate fruit or predict whether previously encountered fruit has ripened. Recent studies, however, suggest that the ability of primates to cognitively map fruit-bearing trees is limited. In this study, we investigated an alternative and arguably simpler, more efficient strategy, the use of synchrony, a botanical characteristic of a large number of fruit species. Synchronous fruiting would allow the prediction of the fruiting state of a large number of trees without having to first check the trees. We studied whether rainforest primates, grey-cheeked mangabeys in the Kibale National Park, Uganda, used synchrony in fruit emergence to find fruit. We analysed the movements of adult males towards Uvariopsis congensis food trees, a strongly synchronous fruiting species with different local patterns of synchrony. Monkeys approached within crown distance, entered and inspected significantly more Uvariopsis trees when the percentage of trees with ripe fruit was high compared to when it was low. Since the effect was also found for empty trees, the monkeys likely followed a synchrony-based inspection strategy. We found no indication that the monkeys generalised this strategy to all Uvariopsis trees within their home range. Instead, they attended to fruiting peaks in local areas within the home range and adjusted their inspective behaviour accordingly revealing that non-human primates use botanical knowledge in a flexible way.


Foraging cognition Fruit finding strategies Botanical knowledge Seasonal food distribution Lophocebus albigena 



The Wenner-Gren and Leakey Foundation, the University of St Andrews’ School of Psychology, the Schure-Bijerinck-Popping Foundation of the KNAW, the Stichting Kronendak, the Dobberke Stichting voor Vergelijkende Psychology, the Lucie Burger Stichting and the Foundation Doctor Catharine van Tussenbroek provided funding for this research. We thank the Office of the President, the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Makerere University Biological Field Station and the Kibale Fish and Monkey Project for logistic support and permission to conduct research in Kibale National Park. We are indebted to J. Rusoke and P. Irumba for invaluable assistance in the field. We are grateful to C. H. Janson, G. Brown, R. W. Byrne, A. Whiten, L. A. Bates, J. Close and three anonymous referees for comments and suggestions that considerably improved earlier drafts of this manuscript. We thank R. L. Chancellor for sharing her feeding data (used to determine preference scores) with us and for her great colleagueship. This study is based on non-invasive observations and complies with the laws of Uganda.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 3 (DOC 146 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. R. L. Janmaat
    • 3
    Email author
  • C. A. Chapman
    • 2
  • R. Meijer
    • 1
  • K. Zuberbühler
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of St. AndrewsSt. Andrews, FifeScotland, UK
  2. 2.Department of Anthropology and McGill School of EnvironmentMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany

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