Missy Painter with vocal recording equipment (foreground) and monkeys from the Capuchins at Taboga project’s main study group (background).

For social animals, interactions and relationships with others can greatly influence reproductive fitness. The need to navigate and keep track of social interactions in large social groups is hypothesized to select for advanced cognitive abilities and complex communication. My work with Dr. Thore Bergman aims to test these hypotheses by examining social knowledge and vocal communication in wild monkeys. In Costa Rica, the lab uses playback experiments to test white-faced capuchins’ knowledge of kin and rank relations between their immediate group members, as well as their knowledge of surrounding social groups. We are also interested in how vocalizations mediate social interactions in this species. White-faced capuchins are large-brained monkeys living in multi-male/multi-female groups, making them a great model for the lab’s questions. Our methods include behavioral observations, vocal recordings and acoustic analyses, and field experiments. To learn more about the project, check out the Capuchins at Taboga website.