Extractive foraging and tool-aided behaviors in the wild Nicobar long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis umbrosus)

Abstract

Macaques possess a repertoire of extractive foraging techniques that range from complex manipulation to tool-aided behaviors, to access food items that increase their foraging efficiency substantially. However, the complexity and composition of such techniques vary considerably between species and even between populations. In the present study, we report seven such complex manipulative behaviors that include six extractive foraging behaviors, and teeth flossing, in a population of Nicobar long-tailed macaques. The apparent purpose of these behaviors was an extraction of encased food, processing food, foraging hidden invertebrates, and dental flossing. Among these behaviors, three behaviors viz. wrapping, wiping, and teeth-flossing were tool-aided behaviors, where macaques used both natural and synthetic materials as tools. Occasionally macaques also modified those tools prior to their use. The substrate use patterns of leaf rubbing and teeth flossing were similar to that observed in other macaques. The spontaneous tool modification to perform wrapping was a first time observation. These observations suggest that Nicobar long-tailed macaques have a high level of sensorimotor intelligence which helps to evolve such innovative foraging solutions.

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Acknowledgements

The present research was supported by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India (Grant no. SR/SO/AS-49/2011) to HNK and INSPIRE fellowship, Department of Science and Technology, Government of India (Grant no. A.20020/11/97-IFD.DT.31.03.2010) to A. Pal. We thank Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar islands for permitting us to carry out the field work (Permit no. CWLW/WL/134/566). We thank the local people of Campbell Bay for being helpful throughout the study. MS and PSM thank SERB for the award of a J.C. Bose Fellowship during which this article was prepared. We also acknowledge the anonymous reviewers and the handling editor whose comments helped enhance the quality of this article.

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Correspondence to Honnavalli N. Kumara.

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Ethical approval

This study was approved by the Ethical Committee for Animal Research of Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Coimbatore. It also adhered to the guidelines and principles of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India. Further, permission to carry out this study was granted by the Andaman and Nicobar Forest Department (Permit no. CWLW/WL/134/566).

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Video 1 An adult male performing coconut pounding to break outer shell of a dehusked coconut (MP4 15882 kb)

Video 2 A subadult male employing tool-aided food rubbing by rubbing dry leaves over a cashew nut to remove latex (MP4 47576 kb)

Video 3 A left-hand amputee adult male modifying a tool by detaching it from tree twigs and wrapping it over dehusked coconut shell (MP4 455270 kb)

Video 4 An adult female cleaning sand from food items by employing food rubbing by hand technique (MP4 27847 kb)

Video 5 A subadult male flossing teeth with a feather (MP4 16030 kb)

Video 1 An adult male performing coconut pounding to break outer shell of a dehusked coconut (MP4 15882 kb)

Video 2 A subadult male employing tool-aided food rubbing by rubbing dry leaves over a cashew nut to remove latex (MP4 47576 kb)

Video 3 A left-hand amputee adult male modifying a tool by detaching it from tree twigs and wrapping it over dehusked coconut shell (MP4 455270 kb)

Video 4 An adult female cleaning sand from food items by employing food rubbing by hand technique (MP4 27847 kb)

Video 5 A subadult male flossing teeth with a feather (MP4 16030 kb)

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Pal, A., Kumara, H.N., Mishra, P.S. et al. Extractive foraging and tool-aided behaviors in the wild Nicobar long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis umbrosus). Primates 59, 173–183 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-017-0635-6

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Keywords

  • Bush beating
  • Flossing
  • Husking
  • Substrate use
  • Wiping
  • Wrapping