Causal knowledge of predators' behaviour in wild Diana monkeys

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86 Citations (Scopus)


Wild Diana monkeys, Cercopithecus diana, of Tai forest, Ivory Coast, are preyed upon by leopards, Panthera pardus, and chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes. These two predators differ in their main hunting tactic and Diana monkeys attempt to avoid predation with two distinct antipredator strategies: conspicuous alarm-calling behaviour to leopards and silent, cryptic behaviour to chimpanzees. However, the Diana monkeys' choice of the appropriate antipredator strategy is complicated by the fact that chimpanzees themselves also fall prey to leopards. Chimpanzees give loud and conspicuous alarm screams when they detect a leopard. When these chimpanzees' leopard alarm calls were played back to different groups of Diana monkeys, in about half of the cases recipients switched from a chimp-specific cryptic response to a leopard-specific conspicuous response, suggesting that some individuals assumed the presence of a leopard. Groups whose home range was in the core area of the resident chimpanzee community were more likely to respond this way than more peripheral groups, indicating between-group differences in semantic knowledge. In a follow-up experiment, the monkeys' understanding of the chimpanzee alarm calls was further assessed with a prime-probe technique. Monkeys were primed with chimpanzee alarm calls and then, 5 min later, tested with leopard growls to see whether they were able to anticipate the presence of a leopard. Results were consistent with the hypothesis that monkeys responding cryptically to chimpanzee alarm calls did so because they were not able to understand the calls' meaning. Data are discussed with respect to three possible cognitive mechanisms, associative learning, specialized learning programmes, and causal reasoning, that could have led to causal knowledge in some individuals but not others. (C) 2000 The Association fbr the Study of Animal Behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-220
Number of pages12
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2000




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