Why would capuchin monkeys give out “false alarms?”



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    Capuchin monkeys appear to sometimes false alarms during group feeding, in order to distract other monkeys so that the one who gave the alarm can grab some food.  The distraction technique is especially useful to monkeys who rank lowest in the social group’s hierarchy.  These low-ranking individuals often find themselves shoved away from access to food when the group feeds, meaning that any distraction to the rest of the group is a valuable opportunity to snatch something to eat.  It’s not entirely clear yet whether capuchins actually give false alarms intentionally, or if feeding situations simply give rise to high-stress conditions for lower ranking monkeys, prompting them to scream in a way that is interpreted as an alarm by other monkeys.

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