Prehensile Tail Use during Feeding and Foraging of White-faced capuchins, Cebus capucinus
Advisor:McGraw, W. Scott
MetadataShow full item record
Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. Department of Anthropology Honors Theses; 2005
The prehensile tail appears to have evolved at least twice in New World Monkeys, once in Atelines (Alouatta, Ateles, Lagothrix, Brachyteles) and once in the genus Cebus. Compared to that of Atelines, the prehensile tail in Cebus is shorter, fully haired, lacks specialized tactile receptors, and differs in the extent of dorsal and ventral muscle bundle development. Given these morphological differences, it is plausible that the functional roles of prehensile tails differ in these platyrrhine clades. The prehensile tail has been studied extensively in several Ateline species, however little information exists on how members of Cebus use this specialized appendage. In order to address this question, I examined the positional behavior, activity budget, foraging strategies and associated tail use of white-faced capuchins Cebus capucinus for three weeks at the La Suerte Biological Field Station in Northeast Costa Rica. I used an instantaneous focal animal sampling method to specifically examine the role the prehensile tail plays during feeding and foraging in a group of 15 habituated individuals. At La Suerte, white-faced capuchins use their prehensile tail 20.87% of the total observation time. Prehensile tail use occurred during 42.02% of all feeding observations and 28.79% of all foraging observations. The capuchins fed and foraged for insects 51% of the time and fruit 43% of the time. Prehensile tail use occurred more during insect feeding and foraging, occurring 37.5% of the time. The prehensile tail was used during 33.64% of all fruit feeding and foraging observations. The factors responsible for the parallel development of the prehensile tail in Cebus species as well as Atelines are not completely understood. My data support the argument that Cebus evolved a prehensile tail to aid during feeding and foraging since tail grasping was rarely observed during travel. My associated feeding data support Cant’s (1977) argument that the prehensile tail evolved as a means to better exploit a frugivorous diet on terminal branches. These findings contrast with data for most Atelines where tail use occurs in similar frequencies during both feeding and traveling. More research is needed to fully understand the function of the prehensile tail in Cebus capucinus as well as within the entire Cebus genus. Once we understand the role the tail plays in their lives, we can more accurately hypothesize about the evolution of the prehensile tail.
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