International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 55–72 | Cite as

Urine Washing and Sniffing in Wild White-faced Capuchins (Cebus capucinus): Testing Functional Hypotheses



Urine washing (UW) is taxonomically widespread among strepsirhines and platyrrhines, yet its functional significance is still unclear. We used 2274 h of focal follows of 35 adult and subadult wild white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus) to test 1) the intergroup signaling, intragroup social signaling, and thermoregulatory hypotheses for UW and 2) the hypothesis that individuals sniff each other's urine and other traces to gather socially significant information. Males engaged in significantly more UW than females. All 5 α-males engaged in more UW than subordinate males did, including 4 α-males that increased their UW rate above that of their male groupmates after their rise to α rank. Males engaged in significantly less UW while in view of other males than at other times. Male-male sniffing rates do not correlate with either aggression rate or dominance rank distance. Urine washing rates did not increase while subjects were in parts of their home range where more intergroup encounters occurred. Urine washing rates were highest early in the morning and late in the afternoon, presumably when temperatures were coolest. The data do not support either the thermoregulatory or social signaling hypothesis. We suggest that experiments with captive capuchins are necessary to resolve the issue of the function of urine washing in the taxon.

Key Words

Cebus capucinus olfactory communication thermoregulation urine washing 



S. Perry thanks Todd Bishop, Kathryn Atkins, Julie Gros-Louis, Hannah Gilkenson, Jill Anderson, and Sarah Carnegie for assistance in data collection and Wofsy for assistance in coding the data. The following grants to Perry funded the project: the Leakey Foundation (2 grants), UCLA (2 Academic Senate Grants and 2 Faculty Career Development grants), NSF (an NSF-NATO postdoctoral fellowship no. 9633991, a graduate fellowship, and a POWRE grant no. 9870429), a Killam Memorial Fellowship, the University of Michigan, the National Geographic Society (co-PI Barbara Smuts), and the Wenner-Gren Foundation (co-PI Joseph Manson). The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology funded all authors during the write-up phase. We thank the Costa Rican Park Service, the community of San Ramon de Bagaces, and Rancho Jojoba for permission to work on their property, and the Rosales family for permission to camp on their land. We thank Linda Fedigan for discussions and Sarah Carnegie and Monica Carosi for discussions and for allowing us access to unpublished materials.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fernando Campos
    • 1
  • Joseph H. Manson
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Susan Perry
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CalgaryAlbertaCanada
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Center for Behavior, Evolution and CultureUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany

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