illustrated by Amisha Gadani

ISG Administrative Director Dr. Jessica Lynch Alfaro published the paper “Anointing variation across wild capuchin populations: a review of material preferences, bout frequency and anointing sociality in Cebus and Sapajus”  in the April issue of the American Journal of Primatology.  Illustrations for the paper were provided by ISG artist Amisha Gadani.

Abstract: The frequency of anointing bouts and the materials used for self- and social anointing vary across capuchin species in captivity, but there is little published data on capuchin anointing in the wild. Here we present previously unpublished data on anointing behaviors from capuchin monkey populations at ten different field sites and incorporate these data into a review of the anointing literature for captive and wild capuchins. Using a comparative phylogenetic framework, we test four hypotheses derived primarily from captive literature for variation in anointing between wild untufted capuchins (Cebus) and tufted capuchins (Sapajus), including that (1) the frequency of anointing is higher in Cebus, (2) Cebus uses a higher proportion of plant species to insect species for anointing compared with Sapajus, (3) anointing material diversity is higher in Cebus, and (4) social indices of anointing are higher in Cebus. We found that wild Cebus anoints more with plant parts, including fruits, whereas wild Sapajus anoints more with ants and other arthropods. Cebus capucinus in particular uses more plant species per site for anointing compared with other capuchins and may specialize in anointing as an activity independent from foraging, whereas most other capuchin species tend to eat the substances they use for anointing. In agreement with captive studies, we found evidence that wild Cebus anoints at a significantly higher frequency than Sapajus. However, contrary to the captive literature, we found no difference in the range of sociality for anointing between Cebus and Sapajus in the wild. We review anointing in the context of other Neotropical primate rubbing behaviors and consider the evidence for anointing as self-medication; as a mechanism for enhanced sociality; and as a behavioral response to chemical stimuli. Am. J. Primatol. 74:299–314, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.