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Concept: Atelidae


Animal home ranges may vary little in their size and location in the short term but nevertheless show more variability in the long term. We evaluated the degree of site fidelity of two groups of spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) over a 10- and 13-year period, respectively, in the northeastern Yucatan peninsula, Mexico. We used the Local Convex Hull method to estimate yearly home ranges and core areas (defined as the 60% probability contour) for the two groups. Home ranges varied from 7.7 to 49.6 ha and core areas varied from 3.1 to 9.2 ha. We evaluated the degree of site fidelity by quantifying the number of years in which different areas were used as either home ranges or core areas. Large tracts were used only as home ranges and only for a few years, whereas small areas were used as either core area or home range for the duration of the study. The sum of the yearly core areas coincided partially with the yearly home ranges, indicating that home ranges contain areas used intermittently. Home ranges, and especially core areas, contained a higher proportion of mature forest than the larger study site as a whole. Across years and only in one group, the size of core areas was positively correlated with the proportion of adult males in the group, while the size of home ranges was positively correlated with both the proportion of males and the number of tree species included in the diet. Our findings suggest that spider monkey home ranges are the result of a combination of long-term site fidelity and year-to-year use variation to enable exploration of new resources.

Concepts: Geoffroy's Spider Monkey, Black-headed Spider Monkey, Home range, Spider monkey, Term, Primate, Time, Atelidae


Primates are now known to possess well-developed olfactory sensitivity and discrimination capacities that can play a substantial role in many aspects of their interaction with conspecifics and the environment. Several studies have demonstrated that olfactory cues may be useful in fruit selection. Here, using a conditioning paradigm, we show that captive spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) display high olfactory discrimination performance between synthetic odor mixtures mimicking ripe and unripe fruits of two wild, primate-consumed, Neotropical plant species. Further, we show that spider monkeys are able to discriminate the odor of ripe fruits from odors that simulate unripe fruits that become increasingly similar to that of ripe ones. These results suggest that the ability of spider monkeys to identify ripe fruits may not depend on the presence of any individual compound that mark fruit ripeness. Further, the results demonstrate that spider monkeys are able to identify ripe fruits even when the odor signal is accompanied by a substantial degree of noise.

Concepts: Atelidae, Primate


Comparing vocalizations across species is useful for understanding acoustic variation at mechanistic and evolutionary levels. Here, we take advantage of the divergent vocalizations of two closely related howler monkey species (Alouatta pigra and A. palliata) to better understand vocal evolution. In addition to comparing multiple acoustic and temporal features of roars and the calling bouts in which they are produced, we tested several predictions. First, A. pigra should have roars with lower fundamental frequency and lower formant dispersion because they are larger than A. palliata and have a larger hyoid apparatus. Second, A. pigra should have faster calling rates, longer roars, longer bouts, and exaggerated call features linked to vocal effort (e.g., nonlinear phenomena and emphasized frequencies) because they are the more aggressive species during intergroup encounters. We found significant interspecific differences supporting our predictions in every tested parameter of roars and bouts, except for roar duration and barking rate. Stepwise discriminant function analyses identified the best features for differentiating roars (acoustic features: formant dispersion followed by highest frequency; temporal features: longest syllable duration followed by number of syllables). Although resembling each other more than they resemble South American howler monkeys, our comparison revealed striking differences in the vocalizations of the two Mesoamerican species. While we cannot completely rule out the influence of body size or the environmental conditions in which the two species evolved, vocal differences were likely influenced by sexual selection. The exaggerated roars and intense calling patterns in A. pigra seem more suitable for intergroup competition, whereas A. palliata calls may be better suited for mate attraction and competition within groups. With interspecific acoustic differences quantified, we will now be able to examine how vocalizations contribute to the evolutionary dynamics of the A. palliata × A. pigra hybrid zone in southern Mexico. Am. J. Primatol. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Argentina, Evolution, Howler monkeys, Mantled Howler, Atelidae, Primate, Guatemalan Black Howler, Howler monkey


The presentation of food may affect feeding competition and the well-being of captive social species. We hypothesized that feeding competition in a captive group of 5 black-handed spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) should increase in response to certain food presentations in terms of size, distribution and quality of food, and that higher feeding competition should lead to an increase in agonism and physiological stress (measured by faecal glucocorticoid metabolites, FGCM) as well as to a decrease in affiliation, proximity among individuals and feeding activity. We used 5 experimental treatments representing different combinations of size, distribution and quality of food. We observed social interactions for 100 h, collected 6,500 proximity and feeding activity records, and gathered 226 faecal samples. When food was clumped, individuals spent less time feeding, and there was also significant individual variation in feeding activity within treatments. FGCM levels were higher when food was clumped. These results are probably linked to an increase in feeding competition when food is concentrated. At least in small groups of spider monkeys, dispersing food in two feeding stations may be sufficient to decrease differences among individuals in priority of access to food resources, hence reducing physiological stress and interindividual differences in feeding activity.

Concepts: Presentation, Stress, Hypothesis, Geoffroy's Spider Monkey, Black-headed Spider Monkey, Primate, Spider monkey, Atelidae


Zika virus (ZIKV) originated and continues to circulate in a sylvatic transmission cycle between non-human primate hosts and arboreal mosquitoes in tropical Africa. Recently ZIKV invaded the Americas, where it poses a threat to human health, especially to pregnant women and their infants. Here we examine the risk that ZIKV will establish a sylvatic cycle in the Americas, focusing on Brazil. We review the natural history of sylvatic ZIKV and present a mathematical dynamic transmission model to assess the probability of establishment of a sylvatic ZIKV transmission cycle in non-human primates and/or other mammals and arboreal mosquito vectors in Brazil. Brazil is home to multiple species of primates and mosquitoes potentially capable of ZIKV transmission, though direct assessment of host competence (ability to mount viremia sufficient to infect a feeding mosquito) and vector competence (ability to become infected with ZIKV and disseminate and transmit upon subsequent feedings) of New World species is lacking. Modeling reveals a high probability of establishment of sylvatic ZIKV across a large range of biologically plausible parameters. Probability of establishment is dependent on host and vector population sizes, host birthrates, and ZIKV force of infection. Research on the host competence of New World monkeys or other small mammals to ZIKV, on vector competence of New World Aedes, Sabethes, and Haemagogus mosquitoes for ZIKV, and on the geographic range of potential New World hosts and vectors is urgently needed. A sylvatic cycle of ZIKV would make future elimination efforts in the Americas practically impossible, and paints a dire picture for the epidemiology of ZIKV and our ability to end the ongoing outbreak of congenital Zika syndrome.

Concepts: Atelidae, New World, Haplorrhini, New World monkey, Human, Simian, Mammal, Primate


Responding only to individuals of a predator species which display threatening behaviour allows prey species to minimise energy expenditure and other costs of predator avoidance, such as disruption of feeding. The threat sensitivity hypothesis predicts such behaviour in prey species. If hunted animals are unable to distinguish dangerous humans from non-dangerous humans, human hunting is likely to have a greater effect on prey populations as all human encounters should lead to predator avoidance, increasing stress and creating opportunity costs for exploited populations. We test the threat sensitivity hypothesis in wild Poeppigi’s woolly monkeys (Lagothrix poeppigii) in Yasuní National Park, Ecuador, by presenting human models engaging in one of three behaviours “hunting”, “gathering” or “researching”. These experiments were conducted at two sites with differing hunting pressures. Visibility, movement and vocalisations were recorded and results from two sites showed that groups changed their behaviours after being exposed to humans, and did so in different ways depending on the behaviour of the human model. Results at the site with higher hunting pressure were consistent with predictions based on the threat sensitivity hypothesis. Although results at the site with lower hunting pressure were not consistent with the results at the site with higher hunting pressure, groups at this site also showed differential responses to different human behaviours. These results provide evidence of threat-sensitive predator avoidance in hunted primates, which may allow them to conserve both time and energy when encountering humans which pose no threat.

Concepts: Human, Atelidae, Silvery Woolly Monkey, Hunting, Woolly monkey, Human behavior, Predation, Primate


Primates possess remarkably variable color vision, and the ecological and social factors shaping this variation remain heavily debated. Here, we test whether central tenants of the folivory hypothesis of routine trichromacy hold for the foraging ecology of howler monkeys. Howler monkeys (genus Alouatta) and paleotropical primates (Parvorder: Catarrhini) have independently acquired routine trichromacy through fixation of distinct mid- to long-wavelength-sensitive (M/LWS) opsin genes on the X-chromosome. The presence of routine trichromacy in howlers, while other diurnal neotropical monkeys (Platyrrhini) possess polymorphic trichromacy, is poorly understood. A selective force proposed to explain the evolution of routine trichromacy in catarrhines-reliance on young, red leaves-has received scant attention in howlers, a gap we fill in this study. We recorded diet, sequenced M/LWS opsin genes in four social groups of Alouatta palliata, and conducted colorimetric analysis of leaves consumed in Sector Santa Rosa, Costa Rica. For a majority of food species, including Ficus trees, an important resource year-round, young leaves were more chromatically conspicuous from mature leaves to trichromatic than to hypothetical dichromatic phenotypes. We found that 18% of opsin genes were MWS/LWS hybrids; when combined with previous research, the incidence of hybrid M/LWS opsins in this species is 13%. In visual models of food discrimination ability, the hybrid trichromatic phenotype performed slightly poorer than normal trichromacy, but substantially better than dichromacy. Our results provide support for the folivory hypothesis of routine trichromacy. Similar ecological pressures, that is, the search for young, reddish leaves, may have driven the independent evolution of routine trichromacy in primates on separate continents. We discuss our results in the context of balancing selection acting on New World monkey opsin genes and hypothesize that howlers experience stronger selection against dichromatic phenotypes than other sympatric species, which rely more heavily on cryptic foods.

Concepts: Gene, Evolution, Mantled Howler, Natural selection, New World monkey, Atelidae, Primate, Howler monkey


Elevated risk of disease transmission is considered a major cost of sociality, although empirical evidence supporting this idea remains scant. Variation in spatial cohesion and the occurrence of social interactions may have profound implications for patterns of interindividual parasite transmission. We used a social network approach to shed light on the importance of different aspects of group-living (i.e. within-group associations versus physical contact) on patterns of parasitism in a neotropical primate, the brown spider monkey (Ateles hybridus), which exhibits a high degree of fission-fusion subgrouping. We used daily subgroup composition records to create a ‘proximity’ network, and built a separate ‘contact’ network using social interactions involving physical contact. In the proximity network, connectivity between individuals was homogeneous, whereas the contact network highlighted high between-individual variation in the extent to which animals had physical contact with others, which correlated with an individual’s age and sex. The gastrointestinal parasite species richness of highly connected individuals was greater than that of less connected individuals in the contact network, but not in the proximity network. Our findings suggest that among brown spider monkeys, physical contact impacts the spread of several common parasites and supports the idea that pathogen transmission is one cost associated with social contact.

Concepts: Parasitism, Spider monkeys and woolly monkeys, Social network, Atelidae, Brown Spider Monkey, Sociology, Primate, Spider monkey


Reports of successful predator attacks on primates are rare. Primates from all major radiations are particularly susceptible to raptors, carnivores, and snakes. Among New World primates, reports of snake predation are limited to medium- and small-bodied species. Here, we report the first documented case of successful predation of an atelid by a snake-an adult female Purús red howler monkey, Alouatta puruensis, that was subdued by a ca. 2-m-long Boa constrictor in an arboreal setting at a height of 7.5 m above the ground. The victim belonged to a group composed of six individuals (one adult male, two adult females, two juveniles, and one infant) that inhabited a ca. 2.5-ha forest fragment in the State of Rondônia, western Brazilian Amazon. The boa applied the species' typical hunting behavior of striking and immediately coiling around its prey and then killing it through constriction (probably in less than 5 min), but the entire restraint period lasted 38 min. The attack occurred around noon. The howler was swallowed head-first in 76 min. The only group member to respond to the distress vocalization emitted by the victim was the other adult female, which was closest to the location where the attack occurred. This female ran toward the snake, also vocalizing, and hit it with her hands several times, but the snake did not react and she moved off to a nearby tree from where she watched most of the interaction. The remaining group members stayed resting at a height approximately 15 m above the victim in a nearby tree without showing any overt signs of stress, except for a single whimper vocalization. This event indicates that even large-bodied atelids are vulnerable to predation by large snakes and suggests that B. constrictor may be a more common predator of primates.

Concepts: New World monkey, Predation, Carnivore, Atelidae, Boa constrictor, Primate, Snake, Howler monkey


Ecological and social factors influence individual movement and group membership decisions, which ultimately determine how animal groups adjust their behavior in spatially and temporally heterogeneous environments. The mechanisms behind these behavioral adjustments can be better understood by studying the relationship between association and space use patterns of groups and how these change over time. We examined the socio-spatial patterns of adult individuals in a free-ranging group of spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi), a species with high fission-fusion dynamics. Data comprised 4916 subgroup scans collected during 325 days throughout a 20-month period and was used to evaluate changes from fruit-scarce to fruit-abundant periods in individual core-area size, subgroup size and two types of association measures: spatial (core-area overlap) and spatio-temporal (occurrence in the same subgroup) associations. We developed a 3-level analysis framework to distinguish passive associations, where individuals are mostly brought together by resources of common interest, from active association, where individuals actively seek or avoid certain others. Results indicated a more concentrated use of space, increased individual gregariousness and higher spatio-temporal association rates in the fruit-abundant seasons, as is compatible with an increase in passive associations. Nevertheless, results also suggested active associations in all the periods analyzed, although associations differed across seasons. In particular, females seem to actively avoid males, perhaps prompted by an increased probability of random encounters among individuals, resulting from the contraction of individual core areas. Our framework proved useful in investigating the interplay between ecological and social constraints and how these constraints can influence individual ranging and grouping decisions in spider monkeys, and possibly other species with high fission-fusion dynamics.

Concepts: Season, Spider monkey, Atelidae