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Identifying behavioral traditions: social networks and the diffusion of behavior within groups of wild capuchin monkeys (Sapajus libidinosus)

Grant number: 13/01791-1
Support Opportunities:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): August 15, 2013
Effective date (End): July 31, 2014
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Zoology - Animal Behavior
Principal Investigator:Eduardo Benedicto Ottoni
Grantee:Camila Galheigo Coelho
Supervisor: Rachel Louise Kendal
Host Institution: Instituto de Psicologia (IP). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Research place: Durham University (DU), England  
Associated to the scholarship:11/22900-8 - Effects of the social dynamics in the diffusion of a novel tool-using behaviours in groups of capuchin monkeys (Sapajus libidinosus) inhabiting the caatinga of The Serra da Capivara National Park, BP.DR


The occurrence of behavioral traditions - trans-generational behaviors that result from socially-biased learning - in nonhuman animals has been subject of intense debate in the last decade. To be classified as a behavioral tradition, the behavior must be acquired by naive individuals through learning that is somehow mediated or facilitated by the behavior of a co-specific. Our goal is to (1) introduce a "two-option task" to two groups of capuchin monkeys living in natural conditions, (2) map the social networks of these monkey groups and (3) monitor the spread of behavior throughout the social group. The main scientific challenge that we aim to address during this research internship abroad, is how to identify socially-biased learning in a naturalistic context, based on data collected from the apparent diffusion of the behavior in the case, the use of one of two alternatives to solve the problem-box. New techniques seem promising as a means of advancing the field of learning in social and behavioral traditions. Such are the Network-based Diffusion Analysis, which builds a model with the observed diffusion data, and then identifies the best model fitting the social network versus an asocial network (or random); and the Option-biased Analysis, which assumes that , when social biases to learning have occurred then variants are more homogeneous within each social group. Thus we propose to study the data already collected in the field with these new analytical methods. If indeed we find a correlation between the route of dissemination of the behavior and the social networks generated, then we will have bases for asserting that there are social-biases to learning, and for validating the claims of behavioral traditions in capuchin monkeys. (AU)

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