Mother knows best, among wild vervet monkeys

April 25, 2012

Among vervet monkeys, social learning is strongly influenced by matrilineal family members, according to a study published Apr. 25 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

The authors of the report, led by Erica van de Waal of University of St. Andrews, presented wild vervets with sand-covered grapes and monitored their grape-cleaning behavior to investigate different channels of social learning. Some monkeys cleaned the grapes by rubbing them between their hands or substrate, others peeled the grapes, and some ate the dirty grapes without cleaning them at all. Over time, though, the cleaning behavior converged within matrilines, highlighting the importance of the mother-offspring relationship for social learning.

The experimental design did not allow the researchers to determine if the children were learning from the mother or vice versa, but the authors write that the results suggest that mothers, relative to other dominant individuals, may be particularly strong . They also conducted further experiments to show that this is not a strictly .

"This result has major implications for the decision rules that underlie social learning and the consequences for the scale on which we may expect to find traditions and cultural evolution in ", says Dr. van de Waal.

Explore further: Social imitation found in rhesus monkeys

More information: van de Waal E, Kru¨ tzen M, Hula J, Goudet J, Bshary R (2012) Similarity in Food Cleaning Techniques within Matrilines in Wild Vervet Monkeys. PLoS ONE 7(4): e35694. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0035694

Related Stories

Relearning process not always a 'free lunch'

August 22, 2008

Researchers at Sheffield University and the University of St. Andrews, United Kingdom, have helped determine why relearning a few pieces of information may or may not easily cause a recollection of other associated, previously ...

Recommended for you

New protein cleanup factors found to control bacterial growth

October 8, 2015

Biochemists have long known that crucial cell processes depend on a highly regulated cleanup system known as proteolysis, where specialized proteins called proteases degrade damaged or no-longer-needed proteins. These proteases ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.