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Urbanization does not increase “object curiosity” in vervet monkeys, but semi-urban individuals selectively explore food-related anthropogenic items


Ellington, Lindsey; Mercier, Stéphanie; Motes-Rodrigo, Alba; van de Waal, Erica; Forss, Sofia (2024). Urbanization does not increase “object curiosity” in vervet monkeys, but semi-urban individuals selectively explore food-related anthropogenic items. Current Zoology, 70(3):383-393.

Abstract

Urban environments expose animals to abundant anthropogenic materials and foods that facilitate foraging innovations in species with opportunistic diets and high behavioral flexibility. Neophilia and exploration tendency are believed to be important behavioral traits for animals thriving in urban environments. Vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) are one of few primate species that have successfully adapted to urban environments, thus making them an ideal species to study these traits. Using a within-species cross-habitat approach, we compared neophilia and exploration of novel objects (jointly referred to as “object curiosity”) between semi-urban, wild, and captive monkeys to shed light on the cognitive traits facilitating urban living. To measure “object curiosity,” we exposed monkeys to various types of novel stimuli and compared their approaches and explorative behavior. Our results revealed differences in the number of approaches and explorative behavior toward novel stimuli between the habitat types considered. Captive vervet monkeys were significantly more explorative than both semi- urban and wild troops, suggesting that positive experiences with humans and lack of predation, rather than exposure to human materials per se, influence object curiosity. Across habitats, juvenile males were the most explorative age-sex class. This is likely due to males being the dispersing sex and juveniles being more motivated to learn about their environment. Additionally, we found that items potentially associated with human food, elicited stronger explorative responses in semi-urban monkeys than non-food related objects, suggesting that their motivation to explore might be driven by “anthrophilia”, that is, their experience of rewarding foraging on similar anthropogenic food sources. We conclude that varying levels of exposure to humans, predation and pre-exposure to human food packaging explain variation in “object curiosity” in our sample of vervet monkeys.

Abstract

Urban environments expose animals to abundant anthropogenic materials and foods that facilitate foraging innovations in species with opportunistic diets and high behavioral flexibility. Neophilia and exploration tendency are believed to be important behavioral traits for animals thriving in urban environments. Vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) are one of few primate species that have successfully adapted to urban environments, thus making them an ideal species to study these traits. Using a within-species cross-habitat approach, we compared neophilia and exploration of novel objects (jointly referred to as “object curiosity”) between semi-urban, wild, and captive monkeys to shed light on the cognitive traits facilitating urban living. To measure “object curiosity,” we exposed monkeys to various types of novel stimuli and compared their approaches and explorative behavior. Our results revealed differences in the number of approaches and explorative behavior toward novel stimuli between the habitat types considered. Captive vervet monkeys were significantly more explorative than both semi- urban and wild troops, suggesting that positive experiences with humans and lack of predation, rather than exposure to human materials per se, influence object curiosity. Across habitats, juvenile males were the most explorative age-sex class. This is likely due to males being the dispersing sex and juveniles being more motivated to learn about their environment. Additionally, we found that items potentially associated with human food, elicited stronger explorative responses in semi-urban monkeys than non-food related objects, suggesting that their motivation to explore might be driven by “anthrophilia”, that is, their experience of rewarding foraging on similar anthropogenic food sources. We conclude that varying levels of exposure to humans, predation and pre-exposure to human food packaging explain variation in “object curiosity” in our sample of vervet monkeys.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:18 July 2024
Deposited On:05 Jun 2024 18:17
Last Modified:19 Jul 2024 01:05
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:1674-5507
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/cz/zoae022
Official URL:https://academic.oup.com/cz/advance-article/doi/10.1093/cz/zoae022/7663699
Project Information:
  • : FunderKONE Foundation
  • : Grant ID202006900
  • : Project Title
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)
  • Content: Supplemental Material
  • Language: English