Neophobia in tool-using and non-tool-using White-Faced Capuchins

Department for the Ecology of Animal Societies

What’s the project about?
We are studying tool-using and non-tool-using white-faced capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus imitator) living on Jicarón island in Coiba National Park, Panamá. Understanding how tool-using and non-tool-using capuchin groups differ in their overall behavior might shed light on why tool use is so localized and how using tools affects animals’ cognition and interaction with their environment. This population is unique since regular hammerstone and anvil tool use in this population is localized to groups on a small stretch of coast across these islands.
This project will compare how neophobic (or neophilic) tool-using and non-tool-using capuchins are on islands and the mainland. Do they differ in their response to novel objects in their environment, and how? This question can be examined using multiple streams of data, a) analyzing camera inspection rates from already coded regular, long-term camera trapping in areas occupied by tool-using and non-tool-using groups b) coding and analyzing video data from a pilot experiment providing a novel stimulus to tool-using and non-tool-using capuchins, and c) potentially, fieldwork during which the student can set up a neophobia task themselves for capuchins to interact with. Fieldwork opportunity depends on the background, desire and experience of the student, but is not required.

Who can apply?
The project is available to MSc students

Who should I contact?
Brendan Barrett and Meg Crofoot, Department for the Ecology of Animal Societies

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