Article

International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 30, Issue 5, pp 743-748

Habitat Impoverishment and Egg Predation by Alouatta caraya

  • Júlio César Bicca-MarquesAffiliated withLaboratório de Primatologia, Faculdade de Biociências, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul Email author 
  • , Carina Barboza MuhleAffiliated withLaboratório de Primatologia, Faculdade de Biociências, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul
  • , Helissandra Mattjie PratesAffiliated withLaboratório de Primatologia, Faculdade de Biociências, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul
  • , Sabine Garcia de OliveiraAffiliated withLaboratório de Primatologia, Faculdade de Biociências, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul
  • , Cláudia Calegaro-MarquesAffiliated withDepartamento de Zoologia, Instituto de Biociências, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul

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Abstract

Species response to habitat loss, fragmentation, or alteration ranges from intolerance and extinction to tolerance and population growth. An ability to increase trophic niche breadth is likely to play a key role in promoting tolerance to habitat change in many species. Howlers (Alouatta spp.) are good examples of these tolerant species. Researchers have related their capacity to thrive well in disturbed habitats to their ability to exploit an eclectic vegetarian diet. Despite >50,000 h of observation of habituated free-ranging groups throughout the distribution of Alouatta, no case of intentional ingestion of animal matter has ever been observed. Here, we report an unexpected trophic niche broadening for free-ranging groups of black-and-gold howlers (Alouatta caraya) living in small (≤2 ha) impoverished habitat islands in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. We studied 3 isolated social groups (15–17, 12–14, and 5 individuals) and observed 1 of them preying on birds’ nests. We recorded 19 events of egg-eating during 2274 h of observation in 1 group and 2 suspected cases in another. Our findings highlight the dietary flexibility that characterize howlers and contrast with the widely held view that they observe a strictly vegetarian diet.

Keywords

Alouatta caraya habitat deterioration herbivory to omnivory increase in trophic niche breadth nest predation