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