Monkeys use Tools in Coiba National Park

1,083Views 0Comments Posted 23/06/2024

UC Davis anthropologists have stumbled upon white-faced capuchin monkeys using stone tools, living on the tropical islands in Panama.  Scientists believe this could provide insight into how our own ancestors starting using stone tools. 


In 2004, an author by the name of Alicia Ibáñez wrote a book about the plant life in Coiba National Park (on the islands of Coiba and Jicarón, Panama) and noted in passing that a select few capuchin monkeys on the islands used rocks to break open nuts and shellfish.  Anthropologists from UC Davis took notice.  Although other non-human primates, including chimpanzees and rhesus macaques, use stone tools, this is the only example in this species, white-faced capuchins.


“Those islands are the only place in the world where this particular species of monkey is known to use stone tools and it’s really concentrated in two little populations,” said Meredith Carlson, a Ph.D. candidate at UC Davis.  Carlson studies the development of stone tool use among these monkeys.  She poses these questions: "Why do some animals pick up stone tools? How does it spread within groups? Perhaps most curiously, why don't all the monkeys on the island do this? The answers could inform how we think about human archaeology."