Journal of Ethology

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 187–189 | Cite as

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

  • Jordan A. CominsEmail author
  • Brian E. Russ
  • Kelley A. Humbert
  • Marc D. Hauser
Short Communication


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 



This research adheres to the legal requirements of the country in which the work was carried out and all institutional guidelines. We thank Edmundo Kraiselburd, Adaris Mas and James E. Ayala for facilitating our research on Cayo Santiago, Amy Skerry and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on an earlier draft, and Grace Lee for arousing our interest in 84 J’s behavior. The project described was supported by Grant Number CM-5-P40RR003640-13 from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NCRR or NIH.


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jordan A. Comins
    • 1
    Email author
  • Brian E. Russ
    • 1
  • Kelley A. Humbert
    • 2
  • Marc D. Hauser
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeurobiologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Human Evolutionary BiologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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