International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 37, Issue 4–5, pp 495–517 | Cite as

Measuring Microhabitat Temperature in Arboreal Primates: A Comparison of On-Animal and Stationary Approaches

  • Cynthia L. Thompson
  • Susan H. Williams
  • Kenneth E. Glander
  • Christopher J. Vinyard


Arboreal primates actively navigate a complex thermal environment that exhibits spatial, daily, and seasonal temperature changes. Thus, temperature measurements from stationary recording devices in or near a forest likely do not reflect the thermal microenvironments that primates actually experience. To better understand the thermal variation primates encounter, we attached automated temperature loggers to anklets worn by free-ranging mantled howling monkeys (Alouatta palliata) to record near-animal ambient temperatures. We compared these measures to conventional, stationary temperature measurements taken from within the forest, in nearby open fields, and at a remote weather station 38.6 km from the field site. We also measured temperatures across vertical forest heights and assessed the effects of wind speed, solar radiation, rain, and vapor pressure on primate subcutaneous temperatures (collected via implanted loggers). Ambient temperatures at measurement sites commonly used by researchers differed from those experienced by animals. Moreover, these differences changed between seasons, indicating dynamic shifts in thermal environment occur through space and time. Temperatures increased with height in the forest, with statistically significant, albeit low magnitude, differences between vertical distances of one meter. Near-animal temperatures showed that monkeys selected relatively warmer microhabitats during nighttime temperature lows and relatively cooler microhabitats during the day. Lastly, the thermal variables wind speed, solar radiation, vapor pressure, and rain were statistically associated with primate subcutaneous temperatures. Our data indicate that the temperatures arboreal primates experience are not well reflected by stationary devices. Attaching automated temperature loggers to animals provides a useful tool for more directly assessing primate microhabitat use.


Behavioral thermoregulation Climate Microclimate Temperature measurement Thermal environment Thermoregulation 



We thank Don Fernando Estrada and the Hacienda La Pacifica Board of Directors for permission to conduct research on their land. We also thank Mark Teaford for his extensive input on the manuscript, as well as Eduardo Fernandez-Duque and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. P. Cofey, D. Mijatovic, E. Naylor, C. Scheidel, and J. Sidote provided assistance in the field. Ohio University and the Duke Arts and Sciences Council provided funding.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cynthia L. Thompson
    • 1
  • Susan H. Williams
    • 2
  • Kenneth E. Glander
    • 3
  • Christopher J. Vinyard
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Biomedical SciencesGrand Valley State UniversityAllendaleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical SciencesOhio University Heritage College of Osteopathic MedicineAthensUSA
  3. 3.Department of Evolutionary AnthropologyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Department of Anatomy and NeurobiologyNortheast Ohio Medical UniversityRootstownUSA

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