Everyone knows that monkeys copy other monkeys and do what they do but which monkeys do they watch? The answer is mom, at least for some Vervet monkeys in South Africa.
Scientists call this kind of copying “Social Learning.” It’s pretty common among primates. Chimpanzees, for example, learn how other chimpanzees fish for termites and different groups have different traditions.
The researchers who were studying the Vervets wanted to gather some solid data on just how these traditions are passed on.
So they set up an experiment that would work with wild, free-living monkeys. They set out some delicious grapes but first they dirtied them up with some sand. Then they sat back and watched what happened.
Some of the monkeys used their hands to brush off the sand. Others rubbed the grape against something else, and some split the grape with their mouth, ate just the inside and threw away the peel.
Young monkeys did not copy dominant males or some other unrelated monkeys. They watched and imitated their mothers and sometimes their brothers and sisters. That makes sense. Vervet families are led by females and grape cleaning is a family tradition.