One group of capuchin monkeys have been found in Panama who are progressing into their very own Stone Age! Since homo sapiens, these white-faced monkeys are the fourth primates who are using tools made from stone to break nuts as well as shellfish.
In July 2018 New Scientist reported that the monkeys are from Jicarón island and belong to Coiba National Park. 3 islands off the coast of Panama make up this national park and the primates are found on all 3 islands. But only the ones on Jicarón island have been witnessed using tools. Even among them, only males from one specific region on that island are using these stone tools.
Brendan Barrett from the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology was the lead author who published a paper on this discovery. 2004 was the first time this behavior was noticed in the monkeys of this park. Co-author of the paper, Alicia Ibáñez noticed it back then and the team went there in March of 2017. They set cameras strategically throughout the 3 islands to record the monkeys using the stone tools.
Footage was found of the male capuchins breaking crabs, snails, and even coconuts. It is yet to be found why the rest of the monkeys of the islands do not exhibit the same behavior. But the males, who were recorded using tools, move in between the many groups so the scientists are hoping they spread their knowledge!
The scientists are of the opinion that these monkeys entering a Stone Age of their own might be because of an accident and not just a predetermined trajectory. Maybe, one super-smart monkey was using a tool to get food and some others followed. They will observe the monkeys for longer to understand better how the evolution is taking place.
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These Panama capuchins are the 2nd American species who have entered the Stone Age. Another capuchin group from South America has been using stone tools for the last 700 years. The other two non-human species using stone tools are Chimpanzees from West Africa and Macaques from Thailand