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Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 54, Issue 5, pp 431–440 | Cite as

Influences of moonlight, ambient temperature, and food availability on the diurnal and nocturnal activity of owl monkeys (Aotus azarai)

  • Eduardo Fernandez-Duque
Original Article

Abstract

The study of activity rhythms, their potential zeitgebers and masking factors among free-ranging primates has received relatively little attention in the past. Most primates are diurnal, a few of them nocturnal, and even fewer are cathemeral. Owl monkeys (Aotus azarai azarai) regularly show diurnal, as well as nocturnal, activity in the Argentinean and Paraguayan Chaco. The goal of this study was to examine how changes in activity patterns in owl monkeys of Formosa, Argentina are related to daily, monthly, and seasonal changes in temperature, light and food availability . During 1 year, I collected activity data from five groups followed continuously from dawn to dusk, dusk to dawn or uninterruptedly during 24 or 36 h for approximately 1,500 h. I kept hourly and daily records of temperature and light conditions, and I gathered monthly information on the density, distribution and abundance of food resources available to the monkeys. I found that the area of study is highly seasonal, and characterized by significant fluctuations in rainfall, temperature, photoperiod, and food availability. Owl monkeys had on average 5 h of activity during the day and 4 h during the night. The amount of diurnal activity remained fairly constant through the year despite seasonal changes in exogenous factors. Owl monkeys did not show changes in their activity patterns that could be attributed to changes in food availability. Nocturnal activity increased as the amount of moonlight increased, whereas diurnal activity decreased following a full-moon night. Ambient temperature was a good predictor of activity only when the moon was full. These results argue convincingly for an interaction between ambient temperature and moonlight in determining the observed activity pattern. It is then highly advisable that any evaluation of diurnal activity in cathemeral animals be analyzed controlling for the possible effects of moonlight during the previous night.

Keywords

Activity patterns Primates Cathemerality Aotus Monogamy 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by grants to E.F.D. from the L.S.B Leakey Foundation, the Douroucouli Foundation, Dumond Conservancy for Primates and Tropical Forests, and the Argentinean National Council for Scientific and Technological Research (PIP 0051/98, CONICET). I want to thank each of the volunteers and students who made this research possible by spending long hours in the forest: Suzanne Bartholf, Luciano Chaneton, Santiago De Paoli, Kate Maurer, Patricio Ramirez-Llorens, Marcelo Rotundo, Ana Sallenave, Carrie Sloan, Charles Veitch, Emilio White, Gustavo Zurita, as well as all of the Earthwatch and University of California Research Expedition volunteers who collaborated during the preliminary stages of this work. Special thanks go to the managers of Estancia Guaycolec, Mr. Emilio Arauz and Mr. John Adams for their continuous support. I thank Debbie Curtis and Claudia R. Valeggia, for their useful comments on the manuscript. Special gratitude is due to Hans G. Erkert and Horacio de la Iglesia who contributed their vast experience on chronobiology to improve substantially the quality of the manuscript. E.F.D. wrote this manuscript while a Postdoctoral Millennium Fellow at the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (Zoological Society of San Diego) and an Assistant Researcher at the CECOAL (Corrientes, Argentina). This study was conducted with full compliance of the current laws of Argentina.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Reproduction of Endangered SpeciesSan Diego ZooSan DiegoUSA

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