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Anim Cogn. 2007 Jul;10(3):293-304.

Integrating information about location and value of resources by white-faced saki monkeys (Pithecia pithecia).

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  • 1Department of Basic Sciences and Craniofacial Biology, New York University College of Dentistry, 345 East 24th Street, New York, NY 10010, USA.


Most studies of spatial memory in primates focus on species that inhabit large home ranges and have dispersed, patchy resources. Researchers assume that primates use memory to minimize distances traveled between resources. We investigated the use of spatial memory in a group of six white-faced sakis (Pithecia pithecia) on 12.8-ha Round Island, Guri Lake, Venezuela during a period of fruit abundance. The sakis' movements were analyzed with logistic regressions, a predictive computer model and a computer model that simulates movements. We considered all the resources available to the sakis and compared observed distances to predicted distances from a computer model for foragers who know nothing about the location of resources. Surprisingly, the observed distances were four times greater than the predicted distances, suggesting that the sakis passed by a majority of the available fruit trees without feeding. The odds of visiting a food tree, however, were significantly increased if the tree had been visited in the previous 3 days and had more than 100 fruit. The sakis' preferred resources were highly productive fruit trees, Capparis trees, and trees with water holes. They traveled efficiently to these sites. The sakis choice of feeding sites indicate that they combined knowledge acquired by repeatedly traveling through their home range with 'what' and 'where' information gained from individual visits to resources. Although the sakis' foraging choices increased the distance they traveled overall, choosing more valued sites allowed the group to minimize intra-group feeding competition, maintain intergroup dominance over important resources, and monitor the state of resources throughout their home range. The sakis' foraging decisions appear to have used spatial memory, elements of episodic-like memory and social and nutritional considerations.

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