Wild Monkeys Learn Tricks by Watching Videos, Study


Wild marmoset monkeys have the ability to learn and perform new tasks by observing other monkeys they do not know in action, according to a study by University of St. Andrews.

Previous studies showed similar capabilities in captive animals. This is the first time an evidence is being presented in wild animals.

For the study, the researchers recorded a group of trained wild marmoset monkeys perform different foraging techniques to open a fruit to access food inside. The techniques included either by pulling open a drawer or lifting a lid.

The researchers played these recorded sessions to 12 groups of wild monkeys living in Pernambuco, Brazil. A laptop was placed above a transparent box containing the treat, while one group was shown just a still image.

They found that the groups that were shown the video were able to open the box, while the group with the image weren't able to. The marmosets were also more likely to copy the method of accessing the food they had seen in the video.

"Culture pervades our human lives so thoroughly it may seem like it separates us from the rest of the natural world. But our research is showing that the basic elements of social learning and creation of different regional traditions is shared much more widely amongst primates and other animals," Professor Andrew Whiten of the School of Psychology and Neuroscience said in a statement.

"These new findings could open up a range of possibilities for experimentally introducing behaviours and studying the basis of culture in animals," Dr Tina Gunhold of the University of Vienna said.

The study titled, "Video demonstrations seed alternative problem-solving techniques in wild common marmosets," is published in scientific journal Biology Letters.

A 2013 University of California Los Angeles study found that sociable primates have complex facial patterns and colors.

"Humans are crazy for Facebook, but our research suggests that primates have been relying on the face to tell friends from competitors for the last 50 million years and that social pressures have guided the evolution of the enormous diversity of faces we see across the group today," study senior author Michael Alfaro, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science, said in a press release.

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