Shortly before a baby capuchin monkey fell to its death, screams were heard from the trees. Soon, a few of the baby’s relatives gathered to consume the lifeless corpse – the scientists saw the whole thing.
Researchers have observed this particular population of white-faced capuchins Monkeys (Cebus follower) Has been documenting their lives in Santa Rosa National Park in Costa Rica for over 37 years. In those years, scientists never recorded a case of cannibalism among monkeys; But that all changed on April 9, 2019.
The group described the tragic incident in a new report published in the Oct. 16 issue Ecology and evolution.
When they noticed a small group of monkeys, the scientists heard loud noises from a nearby tree. The 10-day-old monkey, known as CD-19, fell to the ground. Its so-called mother jumped down to collect the baby. As the CD-19 stuck in the abdomen, the CD tried to move the baby back into the trotop, but the baby fell twice and could no longer hang over the mother. The CT-19 fell motionless for several minutes, and soon, other monkeys gathered around to examine the corpse.
Warning: The following is a graphic description of what happened next.
A 2-year-old male approached the spot and began to moan at the foot of the dead monkey, cutting off its toes. “Although CD made no attempt to retrieve the body, she was nearby and alert,” the authors wrote. An alpha female, age 23, then removed the body from the young male and eagerly bit the corpse, starting at the left leg; Half an hour later, the girl swallowed the whole half of the baby, leaving only the head, chest and arms.
During this party the young male was able to steal with a small tail, but otherwise, the alpha female accumulated most of the CT-19. Technically, the authors wrote that the male is the second cousin of the CT-19, and the alpha is the granddaughter of the baby girl.
Prior to the demise of this young capuchin, only eight cannibalistic cases were found in Central and South American animals, the authors noted. Among animals, in general, rare cases of cannibalism kill coin with infanticide committed by unrelated adults. In other cases, close relatives may adopt a child after its natural death.
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In this case, there is reason to believe that CD-19 was the victim of infanticide, the authors wrote.
“Following the screams and the baby falling to the ground, the adult male PW was chased by an adult female from the same area,” the authors wrote. Pre-observations Siphosins report that women often chase the culprit after witnessing infanticide, and although scientists have not testified as to how or why CD-19 fell, they suspect that the adult male may have pushed or attacked the PW child.
White-faced Capuchin monkeys usually eat plants and small animals such as lizards, squirrels and birds. When catching animal prey, monkeys begin by biting the face so that the animal can quickly become silent and avoid biting themselves; Capuchins usually feed the whole animal individually or as a group. However, monkeys behaved very differently when cannibalizing something on their own; Only two monkeys participated in the diet, leaving the upper half of the carcass untouched.
Most of the other monkeys nearby only examined the corpse, or made threatening gestures towards it, which the authors wrote was “an unusual situation for capuchins.”
Some monkeys returning to cannibalism may have done so for nutritional benefits, the authors suggested. About two weeks after snacking on CD-19, the alpha girl gave birth to her own teenager, which means she was in late pregnancy at the time of the incident. The young male was recently weaned from his own mother, i.e. he began to defend himself when CD-19 fell from the trees.
These views suggest that capuchins may switch to cannibalism when supplemental nutrients are needed, but this is only a hypothesis as primary cannibalism is very rare. Additional case reports of primate cannibalism should be evaluated to determine why monkeys engage in this behavior, the authors concluded.
First published in Live Science.