The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Measurement of individual differences in novelty seeking in wild vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops) using a group-based approach


Department of Anthropology, New York University, New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology

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In order to investigate the behavioral ecology of temperament differences in natural populations, tests to measure these differences in a field setting need to be validated. In captive vervets a group-based approach is used to measure individual differences in novelty seeking. This approach was adapted for use in two field experiments conducted on wild vervet groups in South Africa, focusing on adults and subadults (N=30 nonjuveniles in large group; N=10 in small group). The novel stimuli used were two inflatable boats placed side by side, and an arrangement of non-native, non-toxic potted plants, respectively. For each experiment, the novel stimulus was placed in the center of an open area, and all approaches to within 10m and 1m were recorded. In the boat test with the large group, 15% of nonjuveniles observed in the testing area approached to within 10m and none to within 1m, while none in the small group approached to within 10m. In the plant test, 74% of observed nonjuveniles in the large group approached to within 10m and 43% approached to within 1m. In the small group, 40% of nonjuveniles approached to both within 10m and 1m. A far greater proportion of subadults than adults approached to within 1m of the plants, but no sex differences were found. I compare the age-sex distribution of these responses with those of previous studies investigating responses to novelty in primates, and also examine the challenges encountered in adapting novelty seeking tests developed for captive populations for use in wild populations.

This research was supported by grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, The L.S.B. Leakey Foundation, the American Society of Primatologists, the International Primatological Society, and New York University.

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