Date of Award

5-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Wildlife and Fisheries Biology

Advisor

Rapaport, Lisa G

Committee Member

Yarrow , Greg

Committee Member

Tonkyn , David

Abstract

Golden lion tamarins are highly social, group-living primates and are cooperative breeders. As such they are an ideal species in which to study social learning. Observations of six groups of wild golden lion tamarins were used to examine the development of social foraging and related behaviors in juveniles. Rates at which juveniles approached adults that were foraging for plant foods tended to decline with age (F=3.34, p=.0531), and the rates at which they begged (F=4.71, p=.0193), and foraged at the same site (i.e., co-foraged; F=3.44, p=.0495) decreased significantly. For prey foraging, rates at which adults vacated a site to allow a juvenile access (F=7.11, p=.0039), at which juveniles begged (F=5.41, p=.0119), and co-foraged (F=5.09, p=.0148) declined significantly with age. Interest in different types of prey foraging substrates and interest in co-foraging also were compared across juvenile age categories. By the time juveniles were in the oldest age category (about one year of age), co-foraging behaviors were still occurring at significantly higher rates than for adults. I investigated two hypotheses concerning the function of co-foraging: the nutrition hypothesis and the information hypothesis. The results most strongly supported the information hypothesis, which predicts that co-foraging provides young tamarins the opportunity to acquire knowledge about food and/or foraging. Behavioral experiments involving vocalization playbacks were carried out with one group of golden lion tamarins at Zoo Atlanta in order to investigate how a specific vocalization, the food-offering call, may influence the development of foraging behavior. The playback experiments contribute to the literature on interactions involving the food-offering call by testing the hypothesis that the call serves to focus young tamarins on productive foraging sites and thereby facilitates learning about feeding or foraging. Results of this study were inconclusive with respect to whether tamarins are preferentially attracted to foraging sites associated with the food-offering vocalization. However, analysis of tamarin foraging activity during experimentation allowed me to make recommendations for future exploration of tamarin response to the food-offering call.

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