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Physical properties of palm fruits processed with tools by wild bearded capuchins (Cebus libidinosus)

American Journal of Primatology
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Publication Date
  • Peak-Force-At-Failure
  • Attalea Sp.
  • Astrocarium Sp.
  • Orbignya Sp.
  • Ecology


Habitually, capuchin monkeys access encased hard foods by using their canines and premolars and/or by pounding the food on hard surfaces. Instead, the wild bearded capuchins (Cebus libidinosus) of Boa Vista (Brazil) routinely crack palm fruits with tools. We measured size, weight, structure, and peak-force-at-failure of the four palm fruit species most frequently processed with tools by wild capuchin monkeys living in Boa Vista. Moreover, for each nut species we identify whether peak-force-at-failure was consistently associated with greater weight/volume, endocarp, thickness, and structural complexity. The goals of this study were (a) to investigate whether these palm fruits are difficult, or impossible, to access other than with tools and (b) to collect data on the physical properties of palm fruits that are comparable to those available for the nuts cracked open with tools by wild chimpanzees. Results showed that the four nut species differ in terms of peak-force-at-failure and that peak-force-at-failure is positively associated with greater weight (and consequently volume) and apparently with structural complexity (i.e. more kernels and thus more partitions); finally for three out of four nut species shell thickness is also positively associated with greater volume. The finding that the nuts exploited by capuchins with tools have very high resistance values support the idea that tool use is indeed mandatory to crack them open. Finally, the peak-force-at-failure of the piassava nuts is similar to that reported for the very tough panda nuts cracked open by wild chimpanzees; this highlights the ecological importance of tool use for exploiting high resistance foods in this capuchin species.

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