Selection of effective stone tools by wild bearded capuchin monkeys

Appreciation of objects’ affordances and planning is a hallmark of human technology. Archeological evidence suggests that Pliocene hominins selected raw material for tool making [1, 2]. Stone pounding has been considered a precursor to tool making [3, 4], and tool use by living primates provides insight into the origins of material selection by human ancestors. No study has experimentally investigated selectivity of stone tools in wild animals, although chimpanzees appear to select stones according to properties of different nut species [5, 6]. We recently
discovered that wild capuchins with terrestrial habits [7] use hammers to crack open nuts on anvils [8–10]. As for chimpanzees, examination of anvil sites suggests stone selectivity [11], but indirect evidence cannot prove it. Here, we demonstrate that capuchins, which last shared a common
ancestor with humans 35 million years ago, faced with stones differing in functional features (friability and weight) choose, transport, and use the effective stone to crack nuts. Moreover, when weight cannot be judged by visual attributes, capuchins act to gain information to guide their selection. Thus, planning actions and intentional selection of tools is within the ken of monkeys and similar to the tool activities of hominins and apes.

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Author or Creator: 
Visalberghi E.
Addessi, E.
Truppa, V.
Spagnoletti, N.
Ottoni, E.
Izar P.
Fragaszy D.
Current Biology,, London , Regno Unito
Current biology 19 (2009): 213–217. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.11.064
info:cnr-pdr/source/autori:Visalberghi E.; Addessi, E.; Truppa, V.; Spagnoletti, N.; Ottoni, E.; Izar P.; Fragaszy D./titolo:Selection of effective stone tools by wild bearded capuchin monkeys/doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.11.064/rivista:Current biology/anno:200
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Ritratto di Elsa Addessi
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Ritratto di Valentina Truppa
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