, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 105–111 | Cite as

Diet and activity in black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) in southern Belize: does degree of frugivory influence activity level?

  • Mary S. M. PavelkaEmail author
  • Kyle Houston Knopff
Original Article


This study reports on the diet and activity budgets of Central American black howling monkeys (Alouatta pigra) at Monkey River, Belize. This is a previously unstudied population, close to the southern boundary of the species range, and it provides comparative data on A. pigra from a new study site. Both diet and activity are within the ranges reported for other A.pigra sites and for mantled howlers (A. palliata). No age-sex differences could be discerned in either diet or activity, though monthly variation was apparent. The monkeys switch from consuming leaves 86% of the time in January to March to consuming 67% fruit in April to July. This difference was statistically significant, and provided the opportunity to compare activity levels of the monkeys over two dietary periods, one characterized primarily by folivory, the other by frugivory. Howlers are often seen as a relatively inactive species, something that is associated with a low quality, folivorous diet. However, A. pigra have been described as being as frugivorous as possible and as folivorous as necessary. Yet, despite the opportunistic consumption of large quantities of high-energy foods, A. pigra has been observed as conforming to the howler lifestyle, resting as much as 80% of the day. The data in this paper support both of these reports. Black howlers at Monkey River Belize are typically inactive, maintaining high levels of inactivity even during months characterized by frugivory, suggesting that diet is more flexible and varied than is behavior and calling into question the assumption that howler inactivity is due to the digestion of large quantities of leaves.


Alouatta pigra Diet and activity Howler monkeys Level of frugivory 



We gratefully acknowledge the support of the people of Monkey River, especially Charles Atherley and Sonny Garbut and in particular our forest guides, Percival Gordon, Brian Garbutt, and Daryl Garbutt. Without the hard work and perseverance of Brad Mcvittie, James Loudon, Katie Chaput, Olivia Brusselers, and Dana Nowak, who collected behavioral data onsite, this project would not have been possible. We thank Tracy Wyman and Tak Fung at the University of Calgary for help with statistical analysis. Support for this project was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, The National Geographic Society, The Calgary Institute for the Humanities, the Department of Anthropology, and the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Calgary. This support is most gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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