Primates take weather into account when searching for fruits

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Temperature and solar radiation are known to influence maturation of fruits and insect larvae inside them [1-8]. We investigated whether gray-cheeked mangabeys (Lophocebus albigena johnstonii) of Kibale Forest, Uganda, take these weather variables into account when searching for ripe figs or unripe figs containing insect larvae. We predicted that monkeys would be more likely to revisit a tree with fruit after several days of warm and sunny weather compared to a cooler and more cloudy period. We preselected 80 target fig trees and monitored whether they contained ripe, unripe, or no fruit. We followed one habituated monkey group from dawn to dusk for three continuous observation periods totalling 210 days. Whenever the group came within a 100 m circle of a previously visited target tree for a second time, we noted whether or not individuals proceeded to the trunk, i.e., whether they "revisited" or simply "bypassed" the tree. We found that average daily maximum temperature was significantly higher for days preceding revisits than bypasses. The probability of a revisit was additionally influenced by solar radiation experienced on the day of reapproach. These effects were found only for trees that carried fruit at the previous visit but not for trees that had carried none. We concluded that these non-human primates were capable of taking into account past weather conditions when searching for food. We discuss the implication of these findings for theories of primate cognitive evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1232-1237
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2006




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