Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 65, Issue 2, pp 391–399 | Cite as

Within-group spatial position in ring-tailed coatis: balancing predation, feeding competition, and social competition

Original Paper


A variety of factors can influence an individual’s choice of within-group spatial position. For terrestrial social animals, predation, feeding success, and social competition are thought to be three of the most important variables. The relative importance of these three factors was investigated in groups of ring-tailed coatis (Nasua nasua) in Iguazú, Argentina. Different age/sex classes responded differently to these three variables. Coatis were found in close proximity to their own age/sex class more often than random, and three out of four age/sex classes were found to exhibit within-group spatial position preferences which differed from random. Juveniles were located more often at the front edge and were rarely found at the back of the group. Juveniles appeared to choose spatial locations based on feeding success and not predation avoidance. Since juveniles are the most susceptible to predation and presumably have less prior knowledge of food source location, these results have important implications in relation to predator-sensitive foraging and models of democratic group leadership. Subadults were subordinate to adult females, and their relationships were characterized by high levels of aggression. This aggression was especially common during the first half of the coati year (Nov–April), and subadults were more peripheralized during this time period. Subadults likely chose spatial positions to avoid aggression and were actively excluded from the center of the group by adult females. In the Iguazú coati groups, it appeared that food acquisition and social agonism were the major determinants driving spatial choice, while predation played little or no role. This paper demonstrates that within-group spatial structure can be a complex process shaped by differences in body size and nutritional requirements, food patch size and depletion rate, and social dominance status. How and why these factors interact is important to understanding the costs and benefits of sociality and emergent properties of animal group formation.


Coati Social foraging Spatial position Nasua Predation Dominance Feeding competition 



I would like to thank Yamil Di Blanco, Santiago Escobar, Carolina Ferrari, Fermino Silva, and Mauro Tammone for help and assistance during the course of the field work. I would also like to thank Viviana Muñoz for her veterinary assistance. I am particularly grateful to Charles Janson for the immeasurable amount of advice he gave me during all aspects of this project and letting me borrow several pieces of much needed field equipment. I am also very thankful for the consistently helpful comments and advice from Mario Di Bitetti. This paper has benefited tremendously thanks to comments by Matt Gompper, Charles Janson, Andreas Koenig, Diane Doran-Sheehy, and two anonymous reviewers. I thank the APN for permission to carry out work in Iguazú. This study was funded in part by a National Science Fund grant (BCS-0314525).

Ethical standards

This study complied with all laws and regulations of Argentina, the Administración de Parques Nacionales, and ASAB/ABS guidelines for animal welfare.

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteBarro Colorado IslandPanama
  2. 2.New York State MuseumAlbanyUSA

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