Adult-infant food transfer in common marmosets: an experimental study

Gillian Ruth Brown, REA Almond, NJ Bates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Infant marmosets and tamarins obtain solid food items from adults during and after the time of weaning. In addition to providing nutrients, food transfers may provide infants with the opportunity to learn about diet. The aim of this study was to investigate patterns of begging and food transfer in captive groups of common marmosets during tests with 1) palatable novel food, 2) unpalatable novel food, and 3) familiar food. Infants may gain an opportunity to learn about diet breadth by preferentially begging for novel rather than familiar items, while adults may facilitate infant learning by differing in their willingness to transfer food depending upon the food's novelty or palatability. In this study, infants exhibited more interest and begging with novel food items than with familiar ones. However, food transfers were not more likely to occur with novel foods than with familiar ones, and in fact adults were more likely to refuse infant begging attempts with novel foods. The palatability of the food also did not influence the rates of refusal and transfer: adults transferred palatable and unpalatable novel foods with similar frequencies. These results suggest that infant marmosets gain an opportunity to learn about diet breadth by begging for novel foods, but adults do not preferentially transfer novel or palatable food items. (c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-312
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2005


  • food transfer
  • marmosets
  • novelty
  • social learning
  • WILD


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