International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 195–205 | Cite as

Seasonal Effects on Play Behavior in Immature Saimiri sciureus in Eastern Amazonia

  • Anita I. Stone


Play behavior is prevalent among most mammalian young, particularly primates. Though several hypotheses address the function of play, researchers have documented information on the potential costs of play and of environmental effects on the occurrence of primate play less well during long-term field studies. I examine seasonal changes in play behavior of immature squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) across 4 age classes: infants, young juveniles, mid-juveniles, and late juveniles. I observed individuals during 12 mo in Eastern Brazilian Amazonia, an area characterized by highly seasonal rainfall. Play was strongly tied to seasonality, food availability, and changes in diet. The percentage of time spent playing was reduced in the dry season, a period characterized by low fruit availability and an increase in time spent foraging for prey. I suggest that the decrease in play behavior in the dry season is related both to a higher need for energy conservation and to increased time expended in foraging activities.


energy costs juvenile play seasonality 



The Animal Behavior Society, American Society of Primatologists, Sigma Xi, Graduate College of the University of Illinois, and the National Science Foundation supported the work. The field assistance of Edmilson Viana da Silva was critical for the success of the study. I also thank the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Resources (IBAMA) for permission to conduct the study. I thank Karen Bales, Caroline Hostetler, Jennifer Smith and an anonymous reviewer for making comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.


  1. Altmann, J. (1974). Observational study of behavior: Sampling methods. Behavior, 49, 27–267.Google Scholar
  2. Baldwin, J. D. (1969). The ontogeny of social behavior of squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) in a seminatural environment. Folia Primatologica, 11, 161–184.Google Scholar
  3. Baldwin, J. D., & Baldwin, J. I. (1971). Squirrel monkeys (Saimiri) in natural habitats in Panama, Colombia, Brazil and Peru. Primates, 12, 45–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baldwin, J. D., & Baldwin, J. I. (1972). The ecology and behavior of squirrel monkeys (Saimiri oerstedii) in a natural forest in western Panama. Folia Primatologica, 18, 161–184.Google Scholar
  5. Baldwin, J. D., & Baldwin, J. I. (1973). The role of play in social organization: Comparative observations on squirrel monkeys (Saimiri). Primates, 14, 369–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baldwin, J. D., & Baldwin, J. I. (1974). Exploration and social play in squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus). American Zoologist, 14, 303–315.Google Scholar
  7. Baldwin, J. D., & Baldwin, J. I. (1976). Effects of food ecology on social play: A laboratory simulation. Zeitschrift für Tierpschychologie, 40, 1–14.Google Scholar
  8. Barber, N. (1991). Play and energy regulation in mammals. Quarterly Review of Biology, 66, 129–147.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Barrett, L., Dunbar, R. I., & Dunbar, P. (1992). Environmental influences on play behaviour in immature gelada baboons. Animal Behavior, 44, 111–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Basset, N. D., Springate, H. P., Aberlenc, H. P., & Delvare, G. (1997). A review of methods for sampling arthropods in tree canopies. In N. E. Stork, J. Adis, & R. K. Didham (Eds.), Canopy arthropods (pp. 27–52). Chapman and Hall, London.Google Scholar
  11. Bekoff, M., & Byers, J. A. (1992). Time, energy and play. Animal Behavior, 44, 981–982.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bekoff, M., & Byers, J. A. (1998). Animal Play. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.Google Scholar
  13. Boinski, S. (1987). Birth synchrony in squirrel monkeys (Saimiri oerstedii). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 21, 393–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Boinski, S. (1988). Sex differences in the foraging behavior of squirrel monkeys in a seasonal habitat. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 23, 177–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Boinski, S. (1999). The social organizations of squirrel monkeys: Implications for ecological models of social evolution. Evolutionary Anthropology, 8, 101–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Caro, T. M. (1988). Adaptive significance of play: Are we getting closer? Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 3, 50–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Di Fiore, A. (2003). Ranging behavior and foraging ecology of lowland monkeys (Lagothrix lagotricha poeppiggi) in Yasuni National Park, Ecuador. American Journal of Primatology, 59, 47–66.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Garber, P. A., & Leigh, S. R. (1997). Ontogenetic variation in small-bodied New World Primates: Implications for patterns of reproduction and infant care. Folia Primatologica, 68, 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lee, P. C. (1984). Ecological constraints on the social development of vervet monkeys. Behaviour, 91, 245–262.Google Scholar
  20. Leger, D. W., & Didrichsons, I. A. (1994). An assessment of data pooling and some alternatives. Animal Behavior, 48, 823–832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lima, E. M., & Ferrari, S. F. (2003). Diet of a free-ranging group of squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) in Eastern Brazilian Amazonia. Folia Primatologica, 74, 150–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Loy, J. (1970). Behavioural responses of free-ranging vervet monkeys to food shortage. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 33, 263–272.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Martin, P. (1984). The time and energy costs of play behaviour in the cat. Zeitschrift für Tierpschychologie, 64, 298–312.Google Scholar
  24. Martin, P., & Caro, T. (1985). On the functions of play and its role in behavioral development. Advances in the Study of Behavior, 15, 59–103.Google Scholar
  25. Miller, M. N., & Byers, J. A. (1991). Energetic costs of locomotor play in pronghorn fawns. Animal Behavior, 41, 1007–1013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mitchell, C. L. (1990). The ecological basis of female dominance: A behavioral study of the squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus) in the Wild. Ph.D. thesis, Princeton University.Google Scholar
  27. Nunes, S., Muecke, E., Anthony, J. A., & Batterbee, A. S. (1999). Endocrine and energetic mediation of play behavior in free-living Belding’s ground squirrels. Hormones and Behavior, 36, 153–165.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Oliveira, C. R., Ruiz-Miranda, C. R., Kleiman, D. G., & Beck, B. B. (2003). Play behavior in juvenile golden lion tamarins (Callitrichidae: Primates): Organization in relation to costs. Ethology, 109, 593–612.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ross, C. (1991). Life history patterns on New World monkeys. International Journal of Primatology, 12, 481–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Russo, A. R., Ausman, L. M., Gallina, D. L., & Hegsted, D. M. (1980). Developmental body composition of the squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus). Growth, 44, 271–286.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Scollay, P. A. (1980). Cross-sectional morphometric data on a population of semifree-ranging squirrel monkeys, Saimiri sciureus (Iquitos). American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 53, 309–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Sharpe, L. L., Clutton-Brock, T. H., Brotherton, P. N. M., Cameron, E. Z., & Cherry, M. I. (2002). Experimental provisioning increases play in free-ranging meerkats. Animal Behavior, 64, 113–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Siviy, S. M., & Atrens, D. M. (1992). The energetic costs of rough-and-tumble play in the juvenile rat. Developmental Psychobiology, 25, 137–148.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sommer, V., & Mendoza-Granados, D. (1995). Play as an indicator of habitat quality: A field study of langur monkeys (Presbytis entellus). Ethology, 99, 177–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Spinka, M., Newberry, R. C., & Bekoff, M. (2001). Mammalian play: Training for unexpected. Quarterly Review of Biology, 76, 141–168.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stone, A. I. (2006). Foraging ontogeny is not linked to delayed maturation in squirrel monkeys. Ethology, 112, 105–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Stone, A. I. (2007a). Age and seasonal effects on predator-sensitive foraging in juvenile squirrel monkeys: A field experiment. American Journal of Primatology, 69, 127–141.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Stone, A. I. (2007b). Responses of squirrel monkeys to seasonal changes in food availability in an Eastern Amazonian rain forest. American Journal of Primatology, 69, 142–157.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Taub, D. M. (1980). Age at first pregnancy and reproductive outcome among colony-born squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus, Brazilian). Folia Primatologica, 33, 2–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Treves, A. (1999). Within-group vigilance in red colobus and redtail monkeys. American Journal of Primatology, 48, 113–126.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyGrand Valley State UniversityAllendaleUSA

Personalised recommendations