The Effects of the Death of a Group Member on the Behavior of Tufted Capuchins (Sapajus apella)
MetadataShow full item record
The field of animal thanatology has expanded dramatically in recent years. Recent findings have revealed that a wide range of species exhibit behavioral changes in response to the death of a conspecific and, in particular, in response to the dead body itself. Thus far, the majority of the literature has focused on nonhuman primate responses to death, presumably due to the information it offers regarding the evolution of human grief. However, like with other species, the majority of this research has concentrated on responses to the actual body of the deceased. There is comparatively little research examining the effects of the death of a conspecific on group behavior in both the short and long term. Additionally, despite the conclusion that animals alter their behavior in response to death, there is little agreement regarding the significance of such findings. My study aims to address this gap in the literature by examining social network and behavioral changes in a group of captive, tufted capuchins (Sapajus apella) following the death of a group member. I generated grooming and proximity social networks for the six months leading up to the death and the six months following the death, and calculated and compared the corresponding social network metrics of degree, strength, and cohesion. Additionally, I calculated and compared the colony’s rate of affiliative, agonistic, and anxiety related behaviors across six time periods (three before and three after). My results showed that grooming degree (number of grooming social partners) increased for the group as a whole, while grooming strength (frequency of grooming interactions) increased only for the individual with the closest bond to the deceased. I also found that male rates of aggression generally increased following the death, while pacing (an anxiety-related behavior) increased for all group members. My study revealed that even the death of a low-ranking individual has the potential to alter the social network and behavior of the entire group. However, it is unclear whether these changes are a product of grief or merely readjustment following the removal of a group member.
Franklin and Marshall College Archives, Undergraduate Honors Thesis 2018
- F&M Theses Collection