The Web of Life (15-6-9) Primate Deception

 Primate Deception

Monkeys are gregarious, with varying degrees of rigidity in their social hierarchies. Spider monkeys live in large mixed-sex groups of up to 500 members. Their social hierarchy is relaxed. Capuchins live in troops 90% smaller than spider monkeys, with a more decided social hierarchy, but not nearly as stern as that of macaques.

Macaques have a strict social hierarchy. If a lower-level macaque has eaten berries and left none for a more dominant one, the ranking macaque is entitled to remove the berries from the subordinate’s mouth. So, subordinates are careful to conceal their consumption, or their knowledge of food source, if a higher-ranking macaque is about.

Captive monkeys – capuchins, spiders, and macaques – were shown how to unlock a box to get a food reward. The trained monkeys were low-ranking in social standing. When a more socially dominant monkey was around, a trained monkey, especially a macaque, would forgo the treat: ignoring the box and not revealing how to open it.

Simians are deceivers. A subdominant baboon, on being attacked by a senior, may feign fright from a pretend predator approaching – a distraction designed to allow the younger baboon to slip away without further abuse.

Chimps will call others when they find food in abundance. Conversely, when a small amount is discovered, they remain silent or even decoy others to a wrong location.

You only lie when you’re afraid. ~ American mobster John Gotti