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Orangutan mothers adjust their behaviour during food solicitations in a way that likely facilitates feeding skill acquisition in their offspring

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Uomini,  Natalie       
Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Mikeliban, M., Kunz, B., Rahmaeti, T., Uomini, N., & Schuppli, C. (2021). Orangutan mothers adjust their behaviour during food solicitations in a way that likely facilitates feeding skill acquisition in their offspring. Scientific Reports, 11: 23679. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-02901-z.


Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-B992-1
Abstract
Immature orangutans acquire their feeding skills over several years, via social and independent learning. So far, it has remained uninvestigated to what extent orangutan mothers are actively involved in this learning process. From a fitness point of view, it may be adaptive for mothers to facilitate their offspring's skill acquisition to make them reach nutritional independence faster. Food solicitations are potential means to social learning which, because of their interactive nature, allow to investigate the degree of active involvement of the mother. To investigate the role of food solicitation and the role of the mother in immatures' foraging skill acquisition, we analysed 1390 food solicitation events between 21 immature Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii) and their mothers, collected over 13 years at the Suaq Balimbing orangutan population. We found that solicitation rates decreased with increasing age of the immatures and increased with increasing processing complexity of the food item. Mothers were more likely to share complex items and showed the highest likelihoods of sharing around the age at which immatures are learning most of their feeding skills. Our results indicate that immature Sumatran orangutans use food solicitation to acquire feeding skills. Furthermore, mothers flexibly adjust their behaviour in a way that likely facilitates their offspring's skill acquisition. We conclude that orangutan mothers have a more active role in the skill acquisition of their offspring than previously thought.