Spider monkey ranging patterns in Mexican subtropical forest: do travel routes reflect planning?
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Although it is well known that frugivorous spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis) occupy large home ranges, travelling long distances to reach highly productive resources, little is known of how they move between feeding sites. A 11 month study of spider monkey ranging patterns was carried out at the Otochma’ax Yetel Kooh reserve, Yucatán, Mexico. We followed single individuals for as long as possible each day and recorded the routes travelled with the help of a GPS (Global Positioning System) device; the 11 independently moving individuals of a group were targeted as focal subjects. Travel paths were composed of highly linear segments, each typically ending at a place where some resource was exploited. Linearity of segments did not differ between individuals, and most of the highly linear paths that led to food resources were much longer than the estimate visibility in the woodland canopy. Monkeys do not generally continue in the same ranging direction after exploiting a resource: travel paths are likely to deviate at the site of resource exploitation rather than between such sites. However, during the harshest months of the year consecutive route segments were more likely to retain the same direction of overall movement. Together, these findings suggest that while moving between feeding sites, spider monkeys use spatial memory to guide travel, and even plan more than one resource site in advance.
KeywordsAteles Spider monkey Spatial knowledge Route planning Mental maps
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