[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: For group-living animals, it is crucial to distinguish one’s own group members from those of other groups. Studies applying operant conditioning revealed that monkeys living in relatively small groups are able to recognize their own group members when tested with photographs of group members and other conspecifics. Employing a simple looking time paradigm, we here show that Barbary macaques living in two social groups comprising 46 and 57 individuals, respectively, at the enclosure ‘La Forêt des Singes’ at Rocamadour are able to spontaneously distinguish photographs of members of their own group from those depicting animals that belong to another group. This ability appears to develop with age, as juveniles did not discriminate between members of their own group and another group, although they showed generally more interest in the pictures than did adults. Juveniles frequently displayed picture directed behaviours such as lip-smacking, touching and sniffing in both conditions, indicating that the stimuli were highly salient to them. In conclusion, it appears that at least adult monkeys are able to memorize the faces of a large number of individuals. Whether the difference in behaviour is based on individual recognition of one’s own group members or simply the discrimination based on familiarity remains unresolved. However, both mechanisms would be sufficient for group membership identification.
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