The use of olfactory cues, spatial memory, and social information in foraging by capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) and owl monkeys (Aotus nancymae)

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Steven Green - Committee Chair


The role of olfactory cues, spatial memory, and social information in foraging by Cebus apella and Aotus nancymae was examined in a 11/2 ha forested enclosure at Monkey Jungle in Miami FL. The nocturnal Aotus nancymae performed better than the diurnal Cebus apella on a task requiring the use of an olfactory cue to locate hidden food. To examine the spatial memory skills of Cebus apella, artificial landmarks were placed in the enclosure, and food was hidden in a specific location in relation to the landmarks. The array formed by the landmarks and food was translocated within the enclosure with and without rotating it. The food-finding performance of the monkeys was measured with the following cues indicating the location of the food: (1) landmarks and the position of the observer, (2) landmarks alone, and (3) the observer alone. The monkeys found the food at a level greater than expected by chance only when the position of the observer was available as a cue. They did not use the landmarks associatively or relationally to find the food, thus failing to support the hypothesis that these monkeys have the ability to form a cognitive map. Dominance status was associated with food-finding performance and the type of information used to locate the food. Low-ranking individuals used spatial memory to find the food first on the majority of trials. High-ranking individuals used social information to find the food after it had been discovered by the low-ranking individuals. High-ranking individuals obtained the most food in all trials, whereas low-ranking individuals obtained more food in trials in which they found the food first than in trials in which they were not the first to find it. Dominance status may affect the costs and benefits associated with using various cues to find food, and thus may affect how the cues are ordered within an individual's hierarchy. This behavioral flexibility is advantageous and may have been selected for because it allows an individual to take advantage of various sources of information in a variety of social situations it may encounter within its lifetime.


Biology, Ecology; Biology, Zoology

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