International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 470–485 | Cite as

Arthropod Predation by a Specialist Seed Predator, the Golden-backed Uacari (Cacajao melanocephalus ouakary, Pitheciidae) in Brazilian Amazonia

  • A. A. BarnettEmail author
  • B. Ronchi-Teles
  • T. Almeida
  • A. Deveny
  • V. Schiel-Baracuhy
  • W. Souza-Silva
  • W. Spironello
  • C. Ross
  • A. MacLarnon


Morphological adaptations related to food processing generally reflect those elements of the diet that represent the greatest biomechanical challenge or that numerically dominate the diet. However, in periods of the annual cycle when the availability of such foods is low, items to which a species has low apparent morphological adaptation may be included in the diet. Here we test the responses of a diet-specialist primate to limitations in the supply of the resource it is specialized to exploit. Uacaris are primarily predators of immature seeds, in seasonally flooded forests in Amazonian Brazil, and have dental specializations to open hard-shelled fruits. We investigated the importance of arthropods in the diet of golden-backed uacaris (Cacajao melanocephalus ouakary), examining their seasonal importance in the uacari diet, and the ways C. m. ouakary used to access them. Using scan and ad libitum sampling of feeding and phenology from botanical study plots to assess fruit availability, we conducted an 18-mo study in Jaú National Park, Amazonas State, Brazil. We recorded arthropod predation 298 times, with Cacajao melanocephalus ouakary feeding on 26 invertebrate taxa in ≥11 families and 9 different orders. Uacaris extracted wood-boring beetles dentally from rotting wood and smaller larvae from twigs, stems, and petioles, but this food class did not predominate. This food class (encapsulated foods) constituted 23.4 % of the arthropod records. The majority of arthropod food items were either manually removed from substrates (ants, beetle larvae, caterpillars, fulgorid bugs, grasshoppers, mayflies, spiders, termites, wasps, and a whip-scorpion) or plucked from the air (volant Lepidoptera). Uacaris appeared to avoid toxic caterpillars. Insectivory was most frequent when fruit and seeds were least available. Arthropods seem to be seasonally important to this primate, supplementing or making up for shortfalls in the hard fruits and immature seeds for which uacaris have highly developed dental, and possibly intestinal, adaptations.


Insectivory Neotropics Primates 



The study was undertaken under CNPq-IBAMA Protected Area Study License 138/2006 issued to W. Souza Silva, and the study written while A. A. Barnett was a Visiting Scientist at the Instituto National de Pesquisas de Amazônia (under PCI-INPA initiative and CNPq Bolsa de Curta Duração [BEV] grant no. 680.004/2009-2). IBAMA-Manaus issued monthly park research permits to A. A. Barnett. Funding was generously provided by American Society of Primatologists, Columbus Zoo Conservation Fund, Sophie Danforth Conservation Fund, LSB Leakey Foundation (U.S.), Leakey Fund (U.K.), Laurie Shapley, Margot Marsh Foundation, Oregon Zoo Conservation Fund, Percy Sladen Memorial Fund, Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Fund, Primate Action Fund, Primate Conservation Inc., Roehampton University, and Wildlife Conservation Society. Technical assistance and advice were provided by Fundação Vitória Amazônica, Manaus. A. A. Barnett and T. Almeida thank Eliana dos Santos Andrade, Eduardo do Souza, Maria de Bom Jesus, Roberto Morreira, and the IBAMA staff at Jaú. The following kindly identified specimens: Ambylopygids: Linda Raynor (Cornell University), Ephemeroptera: Eduardo Domínguez and Carlos Molineri (Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, Argentina), Lepidoptera: Dick Vane-Wright (University of Kent Canterbury), and Orthoptera: George Beccaloni and Judith Marshall (The Natural History Museum, London). This is Contribution 19 from the Igapó Study Project. We thank Joanna Setchell and Jessica Rothman and two anonymous reviewers, all of whose comments greatly improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. A. Barnett
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • B. Ronchi-Teles
    • 3
  • T. Almeida
    • 4
  • A. Deveny
    • 5
  • V. Schiel-Baracuhy
    • 6
  • W. Souza-Silva
    • 7
  • W. Spironello
    • 2
  • C. Ross
    • 1
  • A. MacLarnon
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Research in Evolutionary and Ecological Anthropology, School of Life SciencesUniversity of RoehamptonLondonUK
  2. 2.Coordenação de BiodiversidadeInstituto Nacional de Pesquisas da AmazôniaManausBrazil
  3. 3.Coordenação de Pesquisas em EntomologiaInstituto Nacional de Pesquisas da AmazôniaManausBrazil
  4. 4.Laboratório de HerpetologiaUniversidade Federal do Matto GrossoBoa EsperançaBrazil
  5. 5.School of Forestry and Environmental StudiesYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  6. 6.Departamento de Sistemática e EcologiaUniversidade Federal de ParaíbaJoão PessoaBrazil
  7. 7.Instituto de Ciências Exatas e TecnologiaUniversidade Federal do AmazonasItacoitiaraBrazil

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