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Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    This book takes us into a Costa Rican forest teeming with simian drama, where since 1990 primatologists Perry and Manson have followed four generations of capuchins. The authors describe behavior as entertaining--and occasionally as alarming--as it is recognizable: competition and cooperation, jockeying for position and status, peaceful years under an alpha male devolving into bloody chaos, and complex traditions passed from one generation to the next. Interspersed with their observations are the authors' colorful tales of the challenges of tropical fieldwork.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-04204-9
    Subjects: Zoology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Prologue
    (pp. 1-7)

    When I am in the Costa Rican forest and have the opportunity to watch and listen to tourists or local farmers as they encounter monkeys in the forest, I am always struck by the profound difference in the way they perceive the animals, compared with my own perception. They seem to see the monkeys as clones of one another—as multiple copies of a particular species template that just happen to be near one another at the moment. Some are bigger than others, but other than that they are all alike. A few attribute emotions and intentions to the monkeys...

  4. CHAPTER 1 All in a Day’s Work
    (pp. 8-26)

    I jolt awake and look at my watch in a panic, thinking, as I do most nights, that I have overslept. It is 3:12 a.m. I could sleep another three minutes, but why bother? Silently, so as not to wake my husband, I pull on my green army pants, tucking them into woolen socks, and put on a long-sleeved shirt and a machete belt. I rush to the kitchen, ignoring the scurrying of roaches and mice as they scuttle away into various holes in the termite-eaten walls, and force myself to drink half a liter of warm milk. Ugh, what...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Social Intelligence Debate and the Origins of the Lomas Barbudal Monkey Project
    (pp. 27-52)

    When I saw my first capuchin monkeys, a captive colony of brown capuchins (Cebus apella), I knew immediately that these were no ordinary monkeys. Though confined to a cage, they were constantly on the move, manipulating objects and boldly approaching the bars to examine me, turning their heads upside down to look at me from all angles. They radiated curiosity and a kind of focused energy. It was easy to imagine them telling each other that they had things to do—places to go and monkeys to see. I could hardly take my eyes off these assertive, busy animals, with...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The Challenges of Foraging and Self-Medication
    (pp. 53-71)

    Although I had come to Lomas to study the social interactions of the capuchins, it was difficult not to become absorbed in the details of their foraging and other interactions with their physical environment. In contrast to the howler monkey diet, which consists of leaves and fruits that can be popped into the mouth without processing, or even without using the hands in most cases, the capuchin diet is largely made up of items that have to be bludgeoned, torn apart, disarmed, or killed. Capuchins love a good challenge, and even if they have just gorged themselves on fruit they...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Predators, Prey, and Personality
    (pp. 72-88)

    As the previous chapter demonstrated, capuchins are extraordinarily feisty and bold in their foraging tactics. They forage on a wide variety of plants and animals, including many prey items that require a great deal of risk, pain tolerance, and persistence to obtain. This general attitude toward problem solving (boldness, tenacity, and pugnacity) seems to extend into several other aspects of capuchin life, including their dealings with other monkeys and their dealings with animals that are not prey. Behavioral ecologists build their hypotheses on the assumption that animals “assess” (not necessarily consciously, of course) the potential reproductive costs and benefits of...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Capuchin Communication
    (pp. 89-115)

    When I met my first capuchin monkeys back in 1990, I was bewildered by their vocalizations, which sounded like bird calls and sometimes more like electronic gadgets than like the monkey sounds I was familiar with. Observers can use their intuition to interpret, at least roughly, many of the calls made by Old World monkeys such as baboons and macaques: threats sound threatening and friendly vocalizations sound soothing. But the calls of many New World monkeys sound birdlike, and most of them cannot be faithfully reproduced by humans.

    Slowly, by matching calls to their context, I began to piece together...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Abby and Tattle: Two Females’ Political Careers
    (pp. 116-133)

    The midday siesta is drawing to a close. Nanny, the third-ranking female among the five adult females in Abby’s group, is enjoying some last moments of quality social time before the monkeys rouse themselves and start the afternoon’s trek through the forest to look for food. She is grooming Squint, who ranks second but spends more time grooming than any other female and is clearly the lynchpin of the female social network. Each female grooms the other for less than half a minute, then stops, turns, and “presents” a part of her body to the other for grooming. The process...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Curmudgeon: The Career of an Alpha Male
    (pp. 134-167)

    I am doing a focal follow of Curmudgeon, the alpha male of Abby’s group. He is swaggering down a branch, with his hair fluffed out as usual and a scowl on his face. His face is so scarred and twisted from fights and mottled by age spots that it is no longer possible for his facial expressions to look benign by human standards, even when he is in a relatively good mood. An infant rushes toward him, with his hair standing on end and penis erect, repeatedly making the horrible, loud gargling sound infants direct toward an alpha male. The...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Moth and Tranquilo: The Strategies of Incoming Alpha Males
    (pp. 168-198)

    One of the most important lessons I have learned in the past fifteen years about studying primate behavioral ecology is that if you want to have a simple story about what the animals are doing, you shouldn’t study them for very long! Like most primatologists at the start of their work with a relatively unknown species, I based my early publications on just a couple of years of data from a single social group. My first impressions of capuchin society were of tightly female-bonded groups with very stable membership, low mortality, and relatively amiable relationships among all group members. Now,...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Kola and Jordan: Lethal Aggression and the Importance of Allies
    (pp. 199-219)

    Although capuchins spend the vast majority of their time interacting with the same individuals day after day, all monkeys—including the females, who form the stable core of the society—can expect to go through some periods of instability such as those described in the previous chapter, in which they are forced to form new relationships and have to cope with the cognitive challenge of remembering the reputations of many relatively unfamiliar males. Encounters between groups provide a forum in which males can gather information about one another—information that they will store away for future use, when they may...

  13. CHAPTER 10 Miffin, Nobu, and Abby: Capuchin Mothers, Infants, and Babysitters
    (pp. 220-244)

    At about 8:00 a.m. I come across Vandal lying on her side on a low branch. I have been keeping a close eye on her all week since my arrival, because she is pregnant for the first time and I am curious to see how this female, whom I have known as a particularly whiny and neurotic adolescent, will cope with parenthood for the first time. As I take a closer look, I realize to my astonishment that she has given birth within the past few minutes. I had seen her just an hour or two before, looking extremely pregnant,...

  14. CHAPTER 11 Guapo: Innovation and Tradition in the Creation of Bond-Testing Rituals
    (pp. 245-263)

    It is noon on a scorching-hot April day in 1992. Joe and I are with Abby’s group, doing a follow of Abby herself. As usual, she is resting with her best friend, Squint. This pair of monkeys makes a formidable team: Abby is the alpha female of the group, and Squint is constantly at her side, meddling in the affairs of all the other monkeys and recruiting Abby’s aid in keeping “order.” They are particularly hard on males. Whenever a male so much as looks at Squint the wrong way, she screams in outrage and solicits Abby’s help in evicting...

  15. CHAPTER 12 Social Learning and the Roots of Culture
    (pp. 264-287)

    The human capacity for culture is a large part of what sets us apart from other animals, and the question of how this capacity emerged is one of the great puzzles facing biologists and social scientists. Whether culture is exclusively human is largely a definitional quarrel. Anthropologists have formulated literally hundreds of definitions of culture, many of which exclude nonhuman animals either explicitly or by including language as an attribute of culture or the means by which it is transmitted, or both. A minimal—and, in my view, more useful—definition ofcultureis “behavioral variation, the distribution of which...

  16. CHAPTER 13 Nobu and La Lucha sin Fin: Conservation of Tropical Dry Forests
    (pp. 288-307)

    One reason I chose to establish a capuchin field site in Costa Rica was the country’s internationally recognized commitment to preserving its tropical forests and promoting research in tropical biology. In 1990, when I first set foot in Costa Rica, ecotourism was booming as a result of its pro-environment policies. I also knew I wanted to establish a field site that I could maintain for several decades, and that therefore I needed to find a site that would be safe to bring children to, once we had started a family. With its very high standards of public health and its...

  17. Epilogue
    (pp. 308-314)

    I am on the plane, traveling back to my field site after an emotionally draining month at UCLA. My five-year contract with the Max Planck Institute is almost at its end. It is time to start transitioning back from “researcher heaven” to the real world, where there is intense competition for funding and research becomes an expensive hobby—a guilty pleasure sneaked during evenings and weekends after teaching duties are done—rather than a job you get paid for. I have spent the past few months writing grant proposals, teaching, and publishing articles like mad, so that I will be...

  18. Cast of Characters
    (pp. 317-324)
  19. Timeline of Events in Abby’s and Rambo’s Groups
    (pp. 325-328)
  20. Glossary of Behavioral Terms in the Capuchin Communicative Repertoire
    (pp. 329-331)
  21. Works Cited
    (pp. 332-346)
  22. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 347-350)
  23. Index
    (pp. 351-358)