, Volume 59, Issue 2, pp 185–196 | Cite as

Extractive foraging of toxic caterpillars in wild northern pig-tailed macaques (Macaca leonina)

  • Florian Trébouet
  • Ulrich H. Reichard
  • Nantasak Pinkaew
  • Suchinda MalaivijitnondEmail author
Original Article


Extractive foraging in nonhuman primates may involve different levels of technical complexity in terms of the number of actions that must be performed and the manual dexterity involved. We describe the extractive foraging of caterpillars in wild northern pig-tailed macaques (Macaca leonina) at Khao Yai National Park, Thailand. The study group, observed from May to December 2016 (n = 146 days), comprised 60–70 habituated individuals, including 3–4 adult males, 20–23 adult females, and 36–47 immatures. Four adult males and five adult females, observed from September to November 2016 for a total of 24 days, were selected for focal animal sampling. Northern pig-tailed macaques were observed eating at least two families (Erebidae and Limacodidae) and three genera (Macrobrochis sp., Phlossa sp. and Scopelodes sp.) of caterpillars. While the monkeys ate short and small caterpillars with stinging setae and non-setae caterpillars without processing, they performed extensive caterpillar-rubbing behavior on large and long caterpillars with stinging setae. Based on 61 extractive foraging bouts, we found that caterpillar rubbing was hierarchically organized into five stages and 12 elements. Five stages of behavior sequence started with picking the caterpillar up, transporting it to a substrate, rubbing it to remove stinging setae, ingesting it, and then cleaning hands and mouth. Only adult macaques were observed using a leaf to rub stinging caterpillars.


Khao Yai National Park Fallback Lepidoptera Caterpillar rubbing Hierarchically organized behavior 



We thank the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT) for permitting FT and UHR to conduct research in the Kingdom of Thailand, and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation (DNP) for allowing us to conduct research in Khao Yai National Park (KYNP). We thank Mr. Kanchit Srinopawan, superintendent of KYNP, and his staff for their support of science research and administrative help. The project was partially funded by a grant from the SIU Graduate and Professional Student Research Awards to FT.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human/animal rights

This research was non-invasive and based solely on observational data, without any animal experiments. Non-human primates observed in this research were previously habituated to human presence.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. This research was conducted under research permission from NRCT, DNP, and KYNP in Thailand. All procedures performed in this study involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted. This research was carried out under IACUC permit number 15-008 from SIUC.

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (MOV 57933 kb)

10329_2017_638_MOESM2_ESM.docx (20 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 19 kb)


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Florian Trébouet
    • 1
  • Ulrich H. Reichard
    • 1
    • 2
  • Nantasak Pinkaew
    • 3
  • Suchinda Malaivijitnond
    • 4
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologySouthern Illinois University CarbondaleCarbondaleUSA
  2. 2.Center for EcologySouthern Illinois University CarbondaleCarbondaleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Entomology, Faculty of Agriculture at Kamphaeng SaenKasetsart UniversityBangkokThailand
  4. 4.Department of Biology, Faculty of ScienceChulalongkorn UniversityBangkokThailand
  5. 5.National Primate Research Center of ThailandChulalongkorn UniversitySaraburiThailand

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