Living Links Newsletter – January 2024

Welcome to the January edition of the Living Links newsletter,

your source of all things monkey and more!

What’s new at Living Links?


Virtual reality (VR) touchscreen update! The capuchins have been hard at work completing the training phases and Dr Emma McEwan and Andreea Miscov are now running the first VR experiment!

Emma and Andreea have converted a classic physical memory cup game experiment into a VR environment game; instead of cups there are hedges! The capuchins start on a ‘hilltop’ looking down at the hedges and they can see which contains the fruit reward- however as they walk downhill towards the hedges their view of the fruit disappears and they must remember where it was! The distance of the hedges represent the memory time delays from the original experiment.

East group youngster Matoury has excelled at the experiment and is soaring ahead of the others! Click on the video below to see Matoury in action and an example of the three conditions representing the 0, 15 and 30 second delays in the original cup game!

Visitor Experience

We have some new QR codes at Living Links which visitors can scan to be linked to our monkey ID pages on our website- learn our monkeys names, see how old they are, and have a go at trying to spot them in real life! We hope to make a more interactive version of this ID guide and an ID game for visitors, so watch this space!

Click for ID Guides!

We also have some new videos playing at Living Links that give visitors an overview of what Living Links is all about and some of the topics our researchers are exploring. Click the video below to watch our Living Links Tour! The videos are also now hosted on our Living Links Website which you can view by clicking the button link below the tour video.

Click here to watch the rest of our core videos and learn more about Living Links and our areas of research!

Monkey Business
The research team enjoyed a well-deserved two-week break over the holidays. Throughout this period, the committed keepers continued caring for the Living Links monkeys, making sure they experienced the warmth of the holiday season. Our animals were treated to special personalised Christmas gifts from the keepers containing their favourite treats!


Monkey of the Month

At 28 years old Lana is the oldest capuchin in the West group, and in fact across all our monkeys! She used to be the dominant female of the group and had little time to dedicate to research with so much to keep an eye on in the group! Last year she unfortunately lost her position to the younger mother- daughter duo Pedra and Pixie. However a plus side of this is she has had more time for research and this past couple of months her attendance at research sessions has sky rocketed!

Question of the Month

Q: What’s the trick to telling the monkeys apart?

A: The squirrel monkeys make it easy with their stylish necklaces, each adorned with either one or two beads for identification. In our West Group, Toomi rocks a single pink bead, while Beni sports two pink beads and Vallen has a black and a red bead! It’s a fashionable and functional way to recognize our lively bunch! The capuchins on the other hand we have to learn by facial features…see the links in our Visitor update above to learn more!

Researcher of the Month

We introduced Gabriella Smith last month and her first experiment, “Susceptibility and physio-behavioral reactions to cognitive illusions in capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella)” is now almost complete. Before starting the experiment, Gabriella had to determine individual food preferences, that is, the high, medium, and low value foods, and found that most monkeys preferred raisin to grape and both of these to maize flake. Once food preferences were established,  monkeys could move onto the experiment, a bait-and-switch magic trick in which a food item appears to be dropped into a tower and then the tower is removed and the food is revealed on top wood shavings. Here, each monkey experiences four trials, the first and last with no change from the food dropped in to the food revealed, while the middle two trial involve a “magical” food change!

In addition to behavioral responses (e.g., vocalizations; digging time), Gabriella is also using thermal imaging to see if monkeys change temperature in response to experiencing a surprise magic trick. Previous research suggests that, in response to a positive event (such as, in this case, the change of a maize flake to a raisin), the temperature of primates’ noses will drop, while that of their eyes will rise. In a negative event surprise (such as a raisin to maize flake change), the literature suggests the upper lip temperature will increase.

Gabriella has also performed this study in kea parrots and Goffin’s cockatoos and found that both species were susceptible to the illusion, with the kea being more likely to dig and cockatoos to raise their crests in the magic trials. This species comparison between parrots and monkeys offers a valuable lens into the emotional expression of surprise in the animal kingdom.


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