Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 63, Issue 5, pp 649–659 | Cite as

Fissioning minimizes ranging costs in spider monkeys: a multiple-level approach

  • Norberto Asensio
  • Amanda H. Korstjens
  • Filippo Aureli
Original Paper


The adjustment to deal with intragroup food competition is probably the most plausible explanation of high levels of fission–fusion dynamics. However, studies did not always support expected relations between food availability, ranging costs, and subgroup size. We used several levels of analysis differing in the time and spatial scale in order to investigate this explanation in spider monkeys. In our study, subgroups were larger when food availability was higher across most levels of analyses used. We also found a fine-scale adjustment: compared to the food patch previously visited, spider monkeys traveled to larger patches just after fusions. This was not without an immediate travel cost: the interpatch distance and travel time after a fusion were longer than that before the fusion. This rapid adjustment shows the flexibility that fission–fusion dynamics can offer. Spider monkeys are in large subgroups only when food conditions are favorable, as evidenced by the fact that at all the other time-scale levels larger subgroups did not experience greater ranging costs than smaller subgroups. Our results indicate that on the whole spider monkeys successfully minimize ranging costs by fission and fusion of subgroups.


Spider monkeys Fission–fusion Feeding competition Ranging costs 



We wish to thank Elvin Murillo-Chacon for the great support during the field study. Melanie Luinstra and Anne-Marie Nuttall are acknowledged for the help given with the mapping software. Gabriel Ramos-Fernandez, David Watts, and two anonymous reviewers are acknowledged for helpful comments. We thank also all the staff from Santa Rosa National Park, especially Roger Blanco and Maria Marta Chavarria, and the financial support from the Leakey Foundation and The North of England Zoological Society. N. Asensio was supported by The Department of Political Science of the Basque Government (Zientzia Politikarako Zuzendaritza). Observations complied with current laws in Costa Rica.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Norberto Asensio
    • 1
  • Amanda H. Korstjens
    • 2
  • Filippo Aureli
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Center in Evolutionary Anthropology and Paleoecology, School of Natural Sciences and PsychologyLiverpool John Moores UniversityLiverpoolUK
  2. 2.School of Conservation SciencesBournemouth UniversityBournemouthUK

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