Keeping Bearded Monkeys Cracking Nuts

EarthzineDEVELOP Summer 2013 VPS, DEVELOP Virtual Poster Session, Original

Agriculture expansion in the Bearded Capuchin habitat - Piaul, Brazil, derived from Landsat 5, 7, and 8.

Team Location: University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia


Caren Remillard (University of Georgia)

Andrea Presotto (University of Georgia)

Steve Padgett-Vasquez (University of Georgia)


Thomas Jordan, Ph.D. (University of Georgia)

Marguerite Madden, Ph.D. (University of Georgia)

Past/Other Contributors:

Auryn Baruch (University of Georgia)

Dylan Tracy (University of Georgia, IT Professional Associate)


The bearded capuchin monkey (Sapajus libidinosus) has been documented using hammer stones and anvils to crack open nuts in the wild. Percussive tool-use had previously only been attributed to chimpanzees and humans. As a result, the bearded capuchin monkey has become of particular importance in the paleoarcheological record of early humans (e.g., Roux and Bril, 2005). Although a substantial amount of behavioral data have been collected and analyzed, the landscape and natural habitat of this species remains understudied. In Northeast Brazil, capuchins, and many other wild animals, face rapid loss of their natural habitats due to drought and increase in agriculture. By understanding changes in the Cerrado landscape, we can provide a suitable model of the effects from human activities on their habitat that will steer future resource management, along with ecological and behavioral studies. Utilizing Landsat imagery acquired for 1987, 2000, and 2013 that overlap with the capuchins’ home range, vegetation and land use/land cover were characterized. A complete temporal land change analysis allowed the team to understand the landscape trends of the study area. This regional analysis will guide future exploration and lead to further behavioral studies of variability in tool use across geographic areas. It will increase understanding of the impact of land use change and desertification on capuchin monkey habitats, otherwise conducive to percussive tool use behavior. There is a risk that as the Cerrado landscape diminishes, the tool use behavior will cease along with it. Project results and methodologies will provide our partners with accurate, quantitative information that will strengthen and assist in policy and management decisions for Brazilian ecological forecasting.

Return to the Summer 2013 VPS page.