(Sapajus [Cebus] apella)
The LRC is the permanent home to a large colony of socially-housed capuchin monkeys. Tufted capuchin monkeys are a species of New World monkey with a wide natural range spanning several South American countries. Tufted capuchin monkeys typically live in mixed-sex social groups that can range in size from 2 – 20 individuals, a social dynamic that we have tried to mimic here at the LRC.
Our resident capuchin population voluntarily participates in non-invasive cognitive, social, and behavioral research with many of our scientists. Each of the six social groups has access to its own indoor enclosure as well as an outdoor play yard, to which the monkeys have daily access as long as weather permits. The capuchins participate in manual tasks (such as token trading), and are experienced with computer-based testing using the LRC’s computerized testing system. This allows researchers to answer questions not only about cognitive ability, but about how that cognitive ability is affected by specific task demands and contexts.
Behavioral observations are conducted multiple times weekly on each group, which allows scientists to have access to longitudinal data spanning years. Additionally, regular behavioral observation allows scientists and animal care staff to have a sense of the hierarchy and well-being of the group for captive management purposes.
The capuchins are also the subject of ongoing endocrinological research at the LRC, in which hormones are sampled using non-invasive fecal, urinary, or positive-reinforcement trained salivary collection. These samples can then be correlated with ongoing cognitive and behavioral research to explore hormonal factors of behavior.