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Chapter Event - Washington Group

Hercules with a tail: Stone tool use in wild bearded capuchin monkeys

by Dorothy M. Fragaszy, Ph.D.

Wild capuchin monkeys living in Fazenda Boa Vista (Piauí, Brazil; a dry forest habitat) routinely use stone hammers to crack open very resistant palm nuts after they place the nuts on stone or log anvils. Dr. Fragaszy will describe how capuchin monkeys transport nuts and stones to anvils, then strike the nuts to crack them, an impressive accomplishment given that the monkeys as adults weigh 1.8 - 4.4 kg, and the stones they use can weigh up to 3 kg. The speaker's work shows that these monkeys choose stones, nuts, and anvil sites selectively, and display finely honed skill in cracking the nuts, including precise positioning of the nut on the anvil, precise handling of the stone hammer, precise control of the trajectory of their strikes, and modulation of the force of their strikes in accord with the condition of the nut following the previous strike. These features of tool use in humans are unexpected in nonhuman primates, let alone small monkeys from South America, according to conventional views. Stone tool use by capuchin monkeys opens up a new reference point for understanding skilled tool use across species and evolutionary time.

Dorothy M. Fragaszy, Ph.D. is a Professor of Psychology and Chair of the graduate program in Behavioral and Brain Sciences at the University of Georgia. She is a primatologist and comparative psychologist who has studied nonhuman primates in laboratory and natural settings. She is past president of the American Society of Primatologists and International Primatological Society. Her work focuses on flexible, adaptive behavior and problem solving, considered from evolutionary, developmental, social, and cognitive perspectives. Since 2005, she has co-directed the EthoCebus Project, which studies stone tool use in wild bearded capuchin monkeys in the Cerrado biome of Brazil. She has documented several ways in which these monkeys use stone hammers skillfully, and how young monkeys acquire this traditional skill over the course of many years.

Date: Saturday, October 15th

Time: 6:00 pm

Location: The Cosmos Club, Washington D.C.

Reservation Notes:

Ticket Price: $55

Menu: Pasta al Pomodoro, Osso Bucco w/ chef’s vegetables, Tiramisu. Vegetarian (salmon) available

Checks Payable to: Explorers Club Washington Group or ECWG

Contact: Arnella Trent
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Phone: 301-526-0822

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