Innovation in wild Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus)

Dr Bonaventura Majolo, University of Lincoln, College of Social Science, School of Psychology

Innovation is the ability to solve novel problems or find novel solutions to familiar problems, and it is known to affect fitness in both human and non-human animals. In primates, innovation has been mostly studied in captivity, although differences in living conditions may affect individuals’ ability to innovate. Here, we tested innovation in a wild group of Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus). In four different conditions, we presented the group with several identical foraging boxes containing food. To understand which individual characteristics and behavioural strategies best predicted innovation rate, we measured the identity of the individuals manipulating the boxes and retrieving the food, and their behaviour during the task. Our results showed that success in the novel task was mainly affected by the experimental contingencies and the behavioural strategies used during the task. Individuals were more successful in the 1-step conditions, if they participated in more trials, showed little latency to approach the boxes and mainly manipulated functional parts of the box. In contrast, we found no effect of inhibition, social facilitation and individual characteristics like sex, age, rank, centrality, neophobia and reaction to humans, on the individuals’ ability to innovate.


University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research

Federica Amici, University of Leipzig, Faculty of Life Science

Alvaro L. Caicoya, University of Barcelona, Faculty of Psychology

Bonaventura Majolo, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology

Anja Widdig, University of Leipzig, Faculty of Life Science