Social influences on foraging behavior in young nonhuman primates: learning what, where and how to eat

L G Rapaport, Gillian Ruth Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Human infants rely on social interactions to acquire food-related information. 1, 2 Adults actively teach children about food through culturally diverse feeding practices. Characteristics we share with the other primates, such as complex diets, highly social lives, and extended juvenile periods, suggest that social learning may be important during ontogeny throughout the order. Although all young primates typically pay attention to feeding adults, great apes and callitrichids, in particular, acquire new foraging techniques through abilities unknown in other nonhuman primates; that is, they learn by imitation. However, ape social learning is almost exclusively infant-initiated, while adult callitrichids actively teach their young. It is unlikely that the same selective forces have acted to favor sophisticated social-learning mechanisms in both taxa.(3,4) Equipped with an ape brain, complex foraging methods, and a cooperative infant-care system, early hominins were uniquely poised to take social learning about food and foraging techniques to a new level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-201
Number of pages13
JournalEvolutionary Anthropology
Volume17
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008

Keywords

  • socially mediated learning
  • food transfer
  • provisioning
  • coforaging
  • teaching
  • GOLDEN LION TAMARINS
  • FACED CAPUCHIN MONKEYS
  • LIFE-HISTORY EVOLUTION
  • GOMBE-NATIONAL-PARK
  • NEW-WORLD PRIMATES
  • FOOD TRANSFER
  • LEONTOPITHECUS-ROSALIA
  • FEEDING-BEHAVIOR
  • CALLITHRIX-JACCHUS
  • SQUIRREL-MONKEYS

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