Science & Tech

Footage captures monkeys using sticks and stones as tools in groundbreaking study

Footage captures monkeys using sticks and stones as tools in groundbreaking study
Capuchin Culture Project

A groundbreaking study has revealed capuchin monkeys use tools to dig underground for food.

While apes are known to be extremely intelligent, with studies suggesting some deliberately make themselves dizzy to feel “escapism”, monkeys have generally been deemed less intelligent.

But, a groundbreaking study by a research team from the University of São Paulo and the Capuchin Culture Project in Brazil, as well as the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, has shown that wild bearded capuchins are capable of using tools, suggesting they may be more intelligent than previously thought.

Capuchin monkeys are omnivorous, eating flowers and other plants as well as insects, small mammals and even eggs. In the past, they have been observed using sticks and stones to expel prey from hiding places or crack open hard nuts or fruits.

But now the new research has shown they are also capable of using tools to access food sources underground.

The research group spent 21 months observing a group of 31 bearded capuchins in Brazil’s Ubajara National Park. During their observation period, they noted 214 instances where the capuchin monkeys used either tools or their hands to dig underground for spiders and other foods.

Additionally, on 40 occasions, researchers observed the monkeys using sticks, primarily to prey on spiders. They observed the monkeys “stick-probing” inside the spider burrow to expel it from its hiding place, and possibly allowing them to access an ootheca (egg mass).

Compared with other studies, the researchers believe there may be an element of cultural differences between groups that might affect the behaviours that each exhibits.

The authors explained such studies help us “better comprehend the ecological pressures that may have shaped the emergence of different digging tools and techniques in the primate lineage”.

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