Traditionally, scientists believed that crowded housing conditions increased aggression in animals. Recent research on captive primates fails to support a linear relationship between population density and aggressive behavior. Our study is the first to investigate the effects of acute crowding on a New World primate. We observed brown capuchins (Cebus apella) under 2 different spatial conditions: a control that offered the full indoor space in the enclosure and a short-term experimental condition that restricted the capuchins to approximately half the amount of space of the control condition. We compared rates of self-grooming, aggression, contact sitting, social grooming, and play between both conditions. We conducted a mixed factorial ANOVA at the individual level while taking subject sex and age class into account. Intense aggression, play, and social grooming decreased significantly in crowded conditions, suggesting that capuchins avoid social encounters if spatially confined. Their strategy for coping with acute crowding via a decrease in all forms of social behavior is intermediate between chimpanzee and macaque strategies in similar experiments. The only behavior to increase under crowding was a nonsocial, self-directed behavior with the potential of reducing arousal: self-grooming.
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A grant from the National Science Foundation (IBN-0077706) to Frans de Waal and a grant from the National Institutes of Health (RR-00165) to the Yerkes National Primate Center supported the research. We thank Marietta Dindo, Marisa Hall, and Michelle Berger for assistance with the experiments and manuscript preparation and Nancy Bliwise for her help with statistical analyses. We also thank the animal care and veterinary staff at the Yerkes Primate Center. The facility is fully accredited by the American Association for the Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care.
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van Wolkenten, M.L., Davis, J.M., Gong, M.L. et al. Coping with Acute Crowding by Cebus apella . Int J Primatol 27, 1241–1256 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-006-9070-z
- Cebus apella
- coping model