Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 59–70 | Cite as

Ecological constraints on group size: an analysis of spider monkey and chimpanzee subgroups

  • C.A. Chapman
  • L.J. Chapman
  • R.W. Wrangham
Article

Abstract

The social organization of spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) appear remarkably similar. In this paper, field studies of these two species were used to (1) test a model of ecological constraints on animal group size which suggests that group size is a function of travel costs and (2) assess ecological and social factors underlying the social organization of these two species. Spider monkeys were studied over a 6-year period in Santa Rosa National Park, Costa Rica, and chimpanzees were studied for 6 years in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Adults of both species spent their time in small subgroups that frequently changed size and composition. Thus, unlike most primate species, spider monkeys and chimpanzees were not always in a spatially cohesive social group; each individual had the option of associating in subgroups of a different size or composition. Both species relied on ripe fruit from trees that could be depleted through their feeding activity. However, spider monkey food resources tended to occur at higher densities, were more common, less temporally variable, and did not reach the low levels experienced by chimpanzees. Analyses of the relationship between subgroup size and the density and distribution of their food resources suggested that travel costs limit subgroup size. However, these ecological factors did not influence all age/sex classes equally. For example, the number of adult males in a subgroup was a function of food density and travel costs. However, this was not the case for female chimpanzees, suggesting that the benefits of being in a subgroup for females did not exceed the costs, even when ecological conditions appeared to minimize subgroup foraging costs. Therefore, it seems likely that social strategies influenced the relationship between food resource variables and subgroup size.

Key words

Group size Spider monkeys Chimpanzees Social organization Primates Frugivores 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • C.A. Chapman
    • 1
  • L.J. Chapman
    • 1
  • R.W. Wrangham
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Peabody MuseumHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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