The role of food transfers in wild golden lion tamarins (Leontopithecus rosalia): Support for the informational and nutritional hypothesis

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Troisi, Camille A.
Hoppitt, William J. E.
Ruiz-Miranda, Carlos R.
Laland, Kevin N.
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Callitrichidae is a unique primate family not only in terms of the large number of food transfers to infants but also for the prevalence of transfers that are initiated by the adults. It has been hypothesized that, as well as provisioning infants, callitrichid food transfers might function to teach the receiver what food types to eat. If food provisioning has a teaching function, we would expect successful food transfers to be more likely with food types that are novel to the juveniles. We would also expect juveniles to learn about foods from those transfers. We introduced different types of food (some familiar, some novel) to wild groups of golden lion tamarins (Leontopithecus rosalia). While novel foods were not more successfully transferred than familiar food in the experiment, transfers were more successful (i.e., the receiver obtained food) when the donor had previous experience with that food. Moreover, we found evidence suggesting that food transfers influenced the future foraging choices of juveniles. Our findings are consistent with the first and third criteria of the functional definition of teaching, which requires that tutors (the adults) modify their behavior in the presence of a naïve individual (a juvenile), and that the naïve individual learns from the modified behavior of the demonstrator. Our findings are also consistent with the provisioning function of food transfer. Social learning seems to play an important role in the development of young tamarins’ foraging preferences.
Food transfer , Golden lion tamarins , Informational hypothesis , Social learning , Teaching
Troisi, C. A., Hoppitt, W. J. E., Ruiz-Miranda, C. R. and Laland, K. N. (2021) 'The role of food transfers in wild golden lion tamarins (Leontopithecus rosalia): Support for the informational and nutritional hypothesis', Primates, 62(1), pp. 207-221. doi: 10.1007/s10329-020-00835-0