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Infant cannibalism in wild white-faced capuchin monkeys

Cite this dataset

Nishikawa, Mari et al. (2021). Infant cannibalism in wild white-faced capuchin monkeys [Dataset]. Dryad.


Cannibalism has been observed in a variety of animal taxa, however, it is relatively uncommon in primates. Thus we rely heavily on case reports of this behavior to advance our understanding of the contexts under which it occurs. Here we report the first observation of cannibalism in a group of wild white-faced capuchin monkeys (Cebus imitator). The subject was a dead infant, estimated to be 10 days old, and the probable victim of infanticide. Consumption of the corpse was initiated by a 2-year-old male (second cousin of the infant), though it was eventually taken over and monopolized by the group’s alpha female (grandaunt of the infant). Although most group members expressed interest in the corpse (sniffing, touching, threatening it), no others made an attempt to consume it. Given that this is the only observation of cannibalism recorded in over 37 years of study on this population, we consider it to be a rare behavior in this species. This detailed record contributes new data, which, when combined with other reports within and across species and contexts, enables the evaluation of adaptive explanations of cannibalism.