The wild marmosets living in the Brazilian forest have never seen a television show and certainly have never watched a movie in their jungle homes, until now. When scientists showed the newbies a short flick of a marmoset stranger opening a box to get a banana slice, they were likely to copy what they saw in the video and open the box themselves, a new study finds.
The study provides a glimpse into how these new world monkeys learn from each other in the wild, said the study’s lead researcher Tina Gunhold, a cognitive biologist at the University of Vienna.
“It was actually the first time where we used such a challenging task,” Gunhold said. “Normally they’re quite easy. The more difficult the task is, the more important social learning becomes.”
Marmosets are social by nature. They live in small family groups typically ranging from five to 15 monkeys, and they live and forage in a defined home range. But marmosets are territorial, and may fight each other if another group encroaches on their home range.
Within the group, however, marmosets are social creatures. The whole group will help raise a new infant. This social learning can help young marmosets understand what foods to eat and how to recognize predators, such as snakes, birds and wildcats.
Learning from watching a video, however, is another lesson entirely. Marmosets, as well as other monkeys in captivity, can learn from watching their peers in videos, research suggests. But Gunhold and her colleagues wanted to see whether common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) living in the wild could also learn from the silver screen.