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Journal Article

Cooperative problem solving in a cooperatively breeding primate

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Cronin, K. A., Kurian, A. V., & Snowdon, C. T. (2005). Cooperative problem solving in a cooperatively breeding primate. Animal Behaviour, 69, 133-142. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2004.02.024.

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We investigated cooperative problem solving in unrelated pairs of the cooperatively breeding cottontop tamarin, Saguinus oedipus, to assess the cognitive basis of cooperative behaviour in this species and to compare abilities with other apes and monkeys. A transparent apparatus was used that required extension of two handles at opposite ends of the apparatus for access to rewards. Resistance was applied to both handles so that two tamarins had to act simultaneously in order to receive rewards. In contrast to several previous studies of cooperation, both tamarins received rewards as a result of simultaneous pulling. The results from two experiments indicated that the cottontop tamarins (1) had a much higher success rate and efficiency of pulling than many of the other species previously studied, (2) adjusted pulling behaviour to the presence or absence of a partner, and (3) spontaneously developed sustained pulling techniques to solve the task. These findings suggest that cottontop tamarins understand the role of the partner in this cooperative task, a cognitive ability widely ascribed only to great apes. The cooperative social system of tamarins, the intuitive design of the apparatus, and the provision of rewards to both participants may explain the performance of the tamarins.