Communication of food quality in captiveMacaca nemestrina and free-rangingAteles geoffroyi


While observational learning and social communication of feeding behavior have been demonstrated several times for edible foods, to date there has been no experimental evidence for learning to avoid distasteful or inedible foods by social cues in primates. A series of experiments on captive pigtail macaques (Macaca nemestrina) and free-ranging spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) was performed to determine if members of these two species would avoid a food item that was rejected by a conspecific. The results indicated that, while individuals were capable of learning to avoid a distasteful food after personal experience, social cues were not sufficient to prevent other individuals from tasting the rejected foods or for discriminating between neutral and distasteful items. The results are discussed in terms of spacing patterns and visual access in the natural foraging situation.

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Fairbanks, L. Communication of food quality in captiveMacaca nemestrina and free-rangingAteles geoffroyi . Primates 16, 181–190 (1975).

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  • Experimental Evidence
  • Food Item
  • Personal Experience
  • Animal Ecology
  • Food Quality