Capuchins

The New World's most accomplished animal tool-users

Capuchin monkeys are widely distributed through Central and South America. They have recently been split into two genera, the gracile Cebus and the more robust Sapajus. Capuchins have long been known to use tools in captivity, but it was only a decade ago that the first scientific observations of wild Sapajus libidinosus (bearded capuchins) in the semi-arid northeast of Brazil revealed their widespread use of stone tools to break open tough plant foods such as palm nuts. The subsequent discovery of capuchins using tools such as sticks for probing tasks, and stones for sexual display, is adding to our our knowledge of the complexity and flexibility of capuchin interactions with their natural and social environments.

The PRIMARCH project conducts field research with wild Sapajus libidinosus groups at two sites in the Brazilian state of Piaui: Fazenda Boa Vista and Serra da Capivara National Park. Research at these sites is directed by Prof. Eduardo Ottoni, Prof. Dorothy Fragaszy, Dr Elisabetta Visalberghi and Dr Patricia Izar.

Further information:

The EthoCebus Project

Key References:

Canale, G. R., Guidorizzi, C. E., Kierulff, M. C. M., Gatto, C. A. F. R., 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). American Journal of Primatology 71, 366-372.

Falotico, T., Ottoni, E., 2013. Stone throwing as a sexual display in wild female bearded capuchin monkeys, Sapajus libidinosusPLoS One 8, e79535.

Fragaszy, D., Visalberghi, E., Fedigan, L., 2004. The Complete Capuchin. The biology of the genus Cebus Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Fragaszy, D., Izar, P., Visalberghi, E., Ottoni, E., de Oliveira, M., 2004. Wild capuchin monkeys (Cebus libidinosus) use anvils and stone pounding tools. American Journal of Primatology 64, 359-366.

Haslam, M., Cardoso, R.M., Visalberghi, E., Fragaszy, D. 2014. Stone anvil damage by wild bearded capuchins (Sapajus libidinosus) during pounding tool use: a field experiment. PLoS One 9, e111273.

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. American Journal of Primatology 71, 242-251.

Ottoni, E., Izar, P., 2008. Capuchin monkey tool use: overview and implications. Evolutionary Anthropology 17, 171-178.

Souto, A., Bione, C., Bastos, M., Bezerra, B., Fragaszy, D., Schiel, N., 2011. Critically endangered blonde capuchins fish for termites and use new techniques to accomplish the task. Biology Letters 7, 532-535.

Spagnoletti, N., Visalberghi, E., Ottoni, E., Izar, P., Fragaszy, D., 2011. Stone tool use by adult wild bearded capuchin monkeys (Cebus libidinosus). Frequency, efficiency and tool selectivity. Journal of Human Evolution 61, 97-107.

Visalberghi, E., Addessi, E., Truppa, V., Spagnoletti, N., Ottoni, E., Izar, P., Fragaszy, D., 2009. Selection of effective stone tools by wild bearded capuchin monkeys. Current Biology 19, 213-217.

Visalberghi, E., Haslam, M., Spagnoletti, N., Fragaszy, D., 2013. Use of stone hammer tools and anvils by bearded capuchin monkeys over time and space: construction of an archeological record of tool use. Journal of Archaeological Science 40, 3222-3232.

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