Oxytocin reduces food sharing in capuchin monkeys by modulating social distance

in Behaviour
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Recent evidence indicates that oxytocin plays an important role in promoting prosocial behaviour amongst humans and other species. We tested whether oxytocin affected cooperation and food-sharing in capuchin monkeys, a highly cooperative New World primate. Subjects received either 2IU oxytocin or an inert adjuvent intranasally prior to each session. Oxytocin influenced food sharing in capuchins in ways we did not anticipate. Recipients were less likely to passively acquire food from possessors when either individual had received OT than in the control, and also spent less time in proximity to their partner. Passive food sharing requires proximity, and oxytocin decreased the capuchins’ typical congregating behaviour, apparently resulting in decreased sharing. We propose that the likely mechanism for increased social distance is the known anxiolytic effect of oxytocin. Our results indicate a need to consider how oxytocin affects the context of interactions and interacts with modes of sociality unique to each species.

Oxytocin reduces food sharing in capuchin monkeys by modulating social distance

in Behaviour



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    Diagram of the barpull apparatus. Monkeys were paired side by side, separated by a mesh partition (indicated by heavy dashed line). The tray could be pulled in by the two 76-cm pulls (indicated by light dashed line); the partner’s pull was removed for the Solo condition. The centre of the food cups was 20 cm from the openings in the front of the testing chamber when the tray was fully pulled in.

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    Frequency of successful cooperation (pulling frequency) across the oxytocin and payoff conditions.

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    Frequency of active food transfer across oxytocin and payoff conditions (note that in most conditions, there were no active transfers at all).

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    Frequency of taking (passive transfer in which the recipient initiates transfer) across oxytocin and payoff conditions.

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    Time spent by the centre partition for the partner in each of the three pull conditions. Dark bars are for trial in which the subject received oxytocin; light bars are for trials in which they received the saline control.

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