Recognizing Culture in Wild Primate Tool Use

  • Michael Haslam
  • Tiago Falótico
  • Lydia Luncz
Part of the Interdisciplinary Evolution Research book series (IDER)


Cultural differences between animal groups offer a means of tracing social relationships and cognition through time and across space. Where behaviours include tool use, we can observe the influence of available materials and role models on the development of tool-based activities. Here, we discuss the ways that we can study the social influence of tool-use behaviour in wild primates, focusing on two species that use durable stone tools: bearded capuchin monkeys (Sapajus libidinosus) and Western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus). We concentrate on durable tools, as these provide an archaeologically recoverable record of activities. However, we also consider the influence of less durable tools when examining behavioural patterns in capuchins and chimpanzees. In order to study abstract concepts like culture and cognition, we identify socially learned behavioural diversity that is not influenced by environmental circumstances. This diversity, when compared among social units, allows us to detect cultural differences. Our bottom-up approach identifies some of the opportunities and challenges in studying social cognition through tool use in wild-ranging primates.


Social learning Stone tools Chimpanzee Capuchin Primate archaeology 



This work was supported by the European Research Council grant #283959 (Primate Archaeology) and São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) grant #2014/18364-1.


  1. Boesch C, Boesch-Achermann H (2000) The chimpanzees of the Tai forest: behavioural ecology and evolution. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  2. Canale GR, Guidorizzi CE, Kierulff MCM, Gatto CAFR (2009) First record of tool use by wild populations of the yellow-breasted capuchin monkey (Cebus xanthosternos) and new records for the bearded capuchin (Cebus libidinosus). Am J Primatol 71:366–372CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Carvalho S, Biro D, McGrew WC, Matsuzawa T (2009) Tool-composite reuse in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): archaeologically invisible steps in the technological evolution of early hominins? Anim Cogn 12:S103–S114CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Coelho C, Falotico T, Izar P, Mannu M, Resende B, Siqueira J, Ottoni E (2015) Social learning strategies for nut-cracking by tufted capuchin monkeys (Sapajus spp.). Anim Cogn 18:911–919CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. De Moraes BLC, Da Silva Souto A, Schiel N (2014) Adaptability in stone tool use by wild capuchin monkeys (Sapajus libidinosus). Am J Primatol 76:967–977CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. De Resende BD, Ottoni EB, Fragaszy DM (2008) Ontogeny of manipulative behavior and nut-cracking in young tufted capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella): a perception–action perspective. Dev Sci 11:828–840CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Eshchar Y, Izar P, Visalberghi E, Resende B, Fragaszy D (2016) When and where to practice: social influences on the development of nutcracking in bearded capuchins (Sapajus libidinosus). Anim Cogn 19:605–618CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Falótico T, Ottoni E (2013) Stone throwing as a sexual display in wild female bearded capuchin monkeys, Sapajus libidinosus. PLoS One 8:e79535CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  9. Falótico T, Ottoni E (2014) Sexual bias in probe tool manufacture and use by wild bearded capuchin monkeys. Behav Process 108:117–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Falótico T, Ottoni E (2016) The manifold use of pounding stone tools by wild capuchin monkeys of Serra da Capivara National Park, Brazil. Behaviour 153:421–442CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Falótico T, Siqueira JO, Ottoni EB (2017) Digging up food: excavation stone tool use by wild capuchin monkeys. Sci Rep 7:6278CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. Falótico T, Luncz L, Svensson MS, Haslam M (2016) Cashew nut positioning during stone tool use by wild bearded capuchin monkeys (Sapajus libidinosus). Folia Primatol 87:392–397CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Fernandes ME (1991) Tool use and predation of oysters (Crassostrea rhizophorae) by the tufted capuchin, Cebus apella appella, in brackish water mangrove swamp. Primates 32:529–531CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ferreira R, Emidio R, Jerusalinsky L (2010) Three stones for three seeds: natural occurrence of selective tool use by capuchins (Cebus libidinosus) based on an analysis of the weight of stones found at nutting sites. Am J Primatol 72:270–275CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Fragaszy D, Izar P, Visalberghi E, Ottoni E, de Oliveira M (2004) Wild capuchin monkeys (Cebus libidinosus) use anvils and stone pounding tools. Am J Primatol 64:359–366CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  16. Fragaszy D, Biro D, Eshchar Y, Humle T, Izar P, Resende B, Visalberghi E (2013) The fourth dimension of tool use: temporally enduring artefacts aid primates learning to use tools. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 368:20120410CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  17. Gumert M, Kluck M, Malaivijitnond S (2009) The physical characteristics and usage patterns of stone axe and pounding hammers used by long-tailed macaques in the Andaman Sea region of Thailand. Am J Primatol 71:594–608CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Haslam M (2012) Towards a prehistory of primates. Antiquity 86:299–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Haslam M (2013) ‘Captivity bias’ in animal tool use and its implications for the evolution of hominin technology. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 368:20120421CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  20. Haslam M (2014) Primate archaeobotany: the potential for revealing nonhuman primate plant-use in the African archaeological record. In: Nixon S, Murray MA, Fuller D (eds) The archaeology of African plant use. Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, CA, pp 25–35Google Scholar
  21. Haslam M, Falótico T (2015) Nasal probe and toothpick tool use by a wild female bearded capuchin (Sapajus libidinosus). Primates 56:211–214CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  22. Haslam M, Hernandez-Aguilar A, Ling V, Carvalho S, de la Torre I, DeStefano A, Du A, Hardy BL, Harris J, Marchant L, Matsuzawa T, McGrew W, Mercader J, Mora R, Petraglia M, Roche H, Visalberghi E, Warren R (2009) Primate archaeology. Nature 460:339–344CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Haslam M, Gumert M, Biro D, Carvalho S, Malaivijitnond S (2013) Use-wear patterns on wild macaque stone tools reveal their behavioural history. PLoS One 8:e72872CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. Haslam M, Cardoso RM, Visalberghi E, Fragaszy D (2014) Stone anvil damage by wild bearded capuchins (Sapajus libidinosus) during pounding tool use: a field experiment. PLoS One 9:e111273CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  25. Haslam M, Luncz L, Pascual-Garrido A, Falótico T, Malaivijitnond S, Gumert M (2016a) Archaeological excavation of wild macaque stone tools. J Hum Evol 96:134–138CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Haslam M, Luncz LV, Staff RA, Bradshaw F, Ottoni EB, Falótico T (2016b) Pre-Columbian monkey tools. Curr Biol 26:R521–R522CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Haslam M, Pascual-Garrido A, Malaivijitnond S, Gumert M (2016c) Stone tool transport by wild Burmese long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis aurea). J Archaeol Sci Rep 7:408–413Google Scholar
  28. Haslam M, Hernandez-Aguilar RA, Proffitt T, Arroyo A, Falótico T, Fragaszy D, Gumert M, Harris JWK, Huffman MA, Kalan AK, Malaivijitnond S, Matsuzawa T, McGrew W, Ottoni EB, Pascual-Garrido A, Piel A, Pruetz J, Schuppli C, Stewart F, Tan A, Visalberghi E, Luncz LV (2017) Primate archaeology evolves. Nat Ecol Evol 1:1431–1437CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Izawa K (1978) Frog-eating behavior of wild black-capped capuchin (Cebus apella). Primates 19:633–642CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Izawa K (1979) Foods and feeding behavior of wild black-capped capuchin (Cebus apella). Primates 20:57–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Izawa K (1980) Social behavior of the wild black-capped capuchin (Cebus apella). Primates 21:443–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Izawa K, Mizuno A (1977) Palm-fruit cracking behavior of wild black-capped capuchin (Cebus apella). Primates 18:773–792CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Janson CH (1988) Food competition in brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella): quantitative effects of group size and tree productivity. Behaviour 105:53–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Luncz L, Boesch C (2014) Tradition over trend: neighboring chimpanzee communities maintain differences in cultural behavior despite frequent immigration of adult females. Am J Primatol 76:649–657CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  35. Luncz L, Boesch C (2015) The extent of cultural variation between adjacent chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus) communities; a microecological approach. Am J Phys Anthropol 156:67–75CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Luncz L, Mundry R, Boesch C (2012) Evidence for cultural differences between neighboring chimpanzee communities. Curr Biol 22:922–926CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Luncz L, Wittig R, Boesch C (2015) Primate archaeology reveals cultural transmission in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus). Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 370:20140348CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  38. Luncz L, Falótico T, Pascual-Garrido A, Corat C, Mosley H, Haslam M (2016a) Wild capuchin monkeys adjust stone tools according to changing nut properties. Sci Rep 6:33089CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  39. Luncz L, Proffitt T, Kulik L, Haslam M, Wittig RM (2016b) Distance-decay effect in stone tool transport by wild chimpanzees. Proc R Soc B Biol Sci 283:20161607CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Luncz L, Tan A, Haslam M, Kulik L, Proffitt T, Malaivijitnond S, Gumert M (2017) Resource depletion through primate stone technology. Elife 6:1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Luncz L, Sirianni G, Mundry R, Boesch C (2018) Costly culture: differences in nut-cracking efficiency between wild chimpanzee groups. Anim Behav 137:63–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mannu M, Ottoni E (2009) The enhanced tool-kit of two groups of wild bearded capuchin monkeys in the caatinga: tool making, associative use, and secondary tools. Am J Primatol 71:242–251CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Matsuzawa T, Humle T, Sugiyama Y (2011) The chimpanzees of Bossou and Nimba. Springer, DordrechtCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. McGrew WC (2004) The cultured chimpanzee: reflections on cultural primatology. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mendes FDC, Cardoso RM, Ottoni E, Izar P, Villar DNA, Marquezan RF (2015) Diversity of nutcracking tool sites used by Sapajus libidinosus in Brazilian cerrado. Am J Primatol 77:535–546CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Mercader J, Panger M, Boesch C (2002) Excavation of a chimpanzee stone tool site in the African rainforest. Science 296:1452–1455CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Mercader J, Barton H, Gillespie J, Harris J, Kuhn S, Tyler RT, Boesch C (2007) 4,300-year-old chimpanzee sites and the origins of percussive stone technology. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 104:3043–3048CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  48. Morin O (2016) How traditions live and die. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  49. Moura A, Lee P (2004) Capuchin stone tool use in caatinga dry forest. Science 306:1909CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Ottoni E, Izar P (2008) Capuchin monkey tool use: overview and implications. Evol Anthropol 17:171–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Perry S (2011) Social traditions and social learning in capuchin monkeys (Cebus). Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 366:988–996CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  52. Proffitt T, Luncz LV, Falótico T, Ottoni EB, de la Torre I, Haslam M (2016) Wild monkeys flake stone tools. Nature 539:85–88CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  53. Sirianni G, Visalberghi E (2013) Wild bearded capuchins process cashew nuts without contacting caustic compounds. Am J Primatol 75:387–393CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. van Schaik C, Ancrenaz M, Borgen G, Galdikas B, Knott C, Singleton I, Suzuki A, Utami SS, Merrill M (2003) Orangutan cultures and the evolution of material culture. Science 299:102–105CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  55. Visalberghi E, Fragaszy D (2013) The Etho-Cebus Project: stone-tool use by wild capuchin monkeys. In: Sanz C, Call J, Boesch C (eds) Tool use in animals: cognition and ecology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 203–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Visalberghi E, Trinca L (1989) Tool use in capuchin monkeys: distinguishing between performing and understanding. Primates 30:511–521CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Visalberghi E, Albani A, Ventricelli M, Izar P, Schino G, Fragazsy D (2016) Factors affecting cashew processing by wild bearded capuchin monkeys (Sapajus libidinosus, Kerr 1792). Am J Primatol 7:799–815CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Westergaard G, Fragaszy D (1987) The manufacture and use of tools by capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). J Comp Psychol 101:159–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Whitehead H, Rendell L (2015) The cultural lives of whales and dolphins. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  60. Whiten A, Goodall J, McGrew WC, Nishida T, Reynolds V, Sugiyama Y, Tutin C, Wrangham R, Boesch C (1999) Cultures in chimpanzees. Nature 399:682–685CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  61. Whiten A, Goodall J, McGrew WC, Nishida T, Reynolds V, Sugiyama Y, Tutin C, Wrangham R, Boesch C (2001) Charting cultural variation in chimpanzees. Behaviour 138:1481–1516CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Haslam
    • 1
  • Tiago Falótico
    • 2
  • Lydia Luncz
    • 3
  1. 1.School of ArchaeologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.Institute of PsychologyUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  3. 3.Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary AnthropologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations