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Research: Suggests Cultural Heritage May Influence Capuchin Monkeys’ Tool Choices

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Cashew nuts, West Indian locust seed pods, jatoba in Brazil, and other hard foods are cracked open using stones in the Cerrado and Caatinga as hammers and anvils.

Researchers measured meal hardness, tool size and weight, and the accessibility of stones in three groups of bearded capuchin monkeys (Sapajus libidinous) while conducting their study. They came to the conclusion that culture, which they described as knowledge passed down through social learning from one generation to the next, can also affect behavior in this area.

“In Serra das Confusoes, they use smaller tools to open smaller and softer fruit but use large, heavy hammers to crack coconut shells, which are very hard. In Chapada dos Veadeiros, where there are stones of varying sizes to choose from, they use the heaviest ones even for fragile foods,” Falotico said.

“We expected to find a very close correlation between the type of food and the size and weight of the tool, but the population in Chapada dos Veadeiros mainly used the larger ones even though stones of all sizes are plentiful and they can choose a smaller size. They probably inherited this habit from their ancestors. It’s a cultural difference compared with the other populations,” Falotico said.

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