Skip to main content

Peruvian Red Uakaris (Cacajao calvus ucayalii) Are Not Flooded-Forest Specialists

Abstract

In the literature, particularly in primatological books, the Peruvian red uakari (Cacajao calvus ucayalii) is generally considered as a species that is specialized on living in flooded forest, despite existing evidence to the contrary. Here we review all available information on habitats where Cacajao calvus ucayalii have been observed. Most sightings are from terra firme, including palm swamps, or from mixed habitats, including terra firme and flooded forest. Therefore, we conclude that the species is not a flooded-forest specialist, but is flexible in its habitat requirements and generally uses terra firme forests or a mixture of habitats. Proper recognition of habitat requirements is important for understanding the ecoethological adaptations of a species and for appropriate conservation measures.

Introduction

Throughout their tropical and subtropical range of distribution, primates occupy a wide variety of different habitats (Fleagle 1999). Few primate species seem to be confined to a single habitat type, e.g., Theropithecus gelada to montane grasslands (Kawai 1979). Some others may require the presence of a specific habitat type in at least part of their home range, e.g., bamboo forest in Callimico goeldii (Porter and Garber 2004). However, supposed habitat specialization may actually be the result of limited knowledge of a species that can be specified once additional information becomes available (Defler 1994), and may also be the result of incorrect inference and ignorance of relevant literature.

Uakaris (Cacajao), and particularly the Peruvian red uakari (Cacajao calvus ucayalii, previously included within Cacajao calvus rubicundus: Hershkovitz 1987), represent an example of the latter case. In a survey in the Rio Tapiche area in eastern Peru, Fontaine (1978, 1990) encountered Cacajao calvus ucayalii on 3 occasions: 1) in swamp forest or aguajal (swamps dominated by the aguaje palm Mauritia flexuosa); 2) on a restinga (strip of high-ground forest within a low-ground matrix) from where the uakaris fled into an aguajal; and 3) on the edge of an aguajal. Based on these observations only, Fontaine (1981. p. 446), in the first review of Cacajao, claimed that “uakaris prefer and may even be restricted to flooded forests.” This perception of Cacajao calvus ucayalii and of uakaris in general dominates in the primatological literature, despite accumulating evidence to the contrary. In many primatological textbooks and overview articles, uakaris in general are referred to as “flooded-forest specialists” (Table I), with very few exceptions (Sussman 2000). The fact that the first detailed field study on any uakari species reported the closely related white uakari (Cacajao calvus calvus) to be confined to várzea (forest seasonally flooded by white-water rivers; Ayres 1986, 1989; cf. Peres 1997) may have contributed to cementing this incorrect perception of red uakaris as a flooded-forest specialist. Published evidence for the occurrence of Cacajao calvus ucayalii in nonflooded forests seems to be largely ignored. To correct this bias, we reviewed the available information, both published and unpublished, about habitats where Cacajao calvus calvus has been observed. We hope that this review will correct the perception of this taxon as a flooded-forest specialist. Such a correction is necessary both for scientific reasons, e.g., for the interpretation of its morphological and behavioral adaptations, and for the sake of appropriate considerations on the conservation of Peruvian red uakaris.

Table I Examples for statements on Cacajao calvus ucayalii (or Cacajao in general) as flooded-forest specialists

Methods

We studied the available literature and unpublished reports, and compiled personal observations or personal communications on the habitat of Cacajao calvus ucayalii. For each area, we extracted information on the habitats where Cacajao calvus ucayalii had been observed and categorized these as 1) terra firme forest, 2) flooded forest, and 3) aguajales. We also compiled the available data on population densities and encounter rates to determine whether habitat influences these variables.

Results

The majority of sites where Cacajao calvus ucayalii has been recorded represent terra firme forest (Table II). This holds true even if 1) Quebrada Blanco and the Estación Biológica Quebrada Blanco, which are located on opposite banks of the same river only about 2 km apart, and the nearby sites at Quebradas Cuchara, Palmichal, Tahuaillo, Tangarana, and Tunchío; and 2) Agua Negra and Lago Preto on the Río Yavarí are considered as nonindependent counts, perhaps harboring the same populations of Cacajao calvus ucayalii.

Table II Localities and habitats in Peruvian Amazonia where Cacajao calvus ucayalii has been recorded

The highest encounter rates for Cacajao calvus ucayalii stem from the Sierras de Contamana (Table II), a site that is not only a terra firme forest, but also has a much higher altitude (600–700 m a.s.l.) than any of the other sites.

Discussion

We here provide clear evidence that Cacajao calvus ucayalii occurs not only in flooded forests, but also in terra firme forests and in areas with a mixture of forest types. The terra firme forests (or bosques de altura in the terminology of Encarnación 1985) include a variety of vegetation types like high terrace forest (bosque de terraza), low hill forest (bosque de colina baja), high hill forest (bosque de colina alta), premontane forest, and aguajales de altura (see also Malleux 1982, for terminology of Peruvian forests) that are all nonflooded. Therefore, one cannot consider Cacajao calvus ucayalii as a flooded-forest specialist, as is commonly reported in the literature. The highest encounter rate and thus probably the highest population density is found at a relatively high altitude (Sierras de Contamana), untypical for the major part of the Amazon lowlands, suggesting that this habitat might be favorable to Cacajao calvus ucayalii. However, because the Sierras de Contamana is an area with very little human disturbance (Aquino et al. 2005), we cannot distinguish whether this factor or favorable habitat accounts for the high encounter rate.

Cacajao calvus ucayalii have large daily ranging distances (>6 km: Bowler 2007; 7.3 km: Leonard and Bennett 1996) and they may migrate seasonally between different habitats, including flooded forests (Bowler 2007). In the Quebrada Blanco area, the nearest seasonally flooded forest is ca. 8–10 km away along the Río Tahuayo and the lower parts of Quebrada Blanco. Given the daily ranging distances quoted above, this forest is in the reach of Cacajao calvus ucayalii. Nevertheless, neither researchers and their field assistants nor local settlers have ever seen these animals in flooded forest along the Río Tahuayo and lower Quebrada Blanco in the last 25 yr.

Aguajales, swamps dominated by aguaje palms (Mauritia flexuosa), occur both in forests subject to inundation and in areas of terra firme (where they are called aguajales de altura; Encarnación 1985). Though Mauritia flexuosa may represent an important food resource for Cacajao calvus ucayalii in some areas (Aquino and Encarnación 1999; Bowler 2007), it is probably not essential for the existence of these uakaris, as indicated by their rarity in the Sierras de Contamana (Aquino et al. 2005).

Altogether, we can reasonably conclude that Cacajao calvus ucayalii is not a habitat specialist restricted to flooded forests. Together with the report by Peres (1997) of Cacajao calvus calvus at a terra firme site, this indicates that habitat requirements and utilization in bald-headed uakaris are much more variable than previously appreciated.

Incorrect perceptions of or misconceptions on aspects of the biology of a primate taxon may have several implications. First, they may lead to erroneous interpretations of the behavioural, ecological, morphological, and physiological adaptations and the evolution of these adaptations. Second, they may lead to bad conservation strategies, particularly when habitat preferences are concerned. Though the first implication is mainly academic, the second one is of strong practical relevance. In a world, where primate habitats are constantly shrinking and an increasing number of primate taxa is getting closer to extinction, accurate knowledge of habitat requirements are amongst the most basic information needed for conservation efforts.

References

  • Aquino, R. (1978). La fauna primatológica en areas de Jenaro Herrera. Unpublished report to the Dirección Regional de Agricultura y Pesquería, Iquitos.

  • Aquino, R. (1988). Preliminary survey on the population densities of Cacajao calvus ucayalii. Primate Conservation, 9, 24–26.

    Google Scholar 

  • Aquino, R. (1990). Reconocimiento preliminar de poblaciones de Cacajao calvus "huapo rojo" (Cebidae, Primates) en el oriente peruano. In N. E. Castro Rodríguez (Ed.), La primatología en el Perú Investigaciones primatológicas (1973-1985) (pp. 318-324). Lima: Imprenta Propaceb.

  • Aquino, R. (1997). Estudios eto-ecológicos y pautas para la conservación de Cacajao calvus ucayalii (Cebidae: Primates). Alma Mater, 13(14), 83–94.

    Google Scholar 

  • Aquino, R. (1998). Some observations on the ecology of Cacajao calvus ucayalii in the Peruvian Amazon. Primate Conservation, 18, 21–24.

    Google Scholar 

  • Aquino, R., & Encarnación, F. (1999). Observaciones preliminares sobre la dieta de Cacajao calvus ucayalii en el nor-oriente peruano. Neotropical Primates, 7, 1–5.

    Google Scholar 

  • Aquino, R., Alvarez, J., & Mulanovich, A. (2005). Diversidad y estado de conservación de primates en las Sierras de Contamana, Amazonía peruana. Revista Peruana de Biología, 12, 427–434.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ayres, M. (1986). Uakaris and Amazonian flooded forest. PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, Cambridge.

  • Ayres, M. (1989). Comparative feeding ecology of the uakari and bearded saki, Cacajao and Chiropotes. Journal of Human Evolution, 18, 697–716.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bartecki, U., & Heymann, E. W. (1987). Sightings of red uakaris, Cacajao calvus ucayalii, at the Rio Blanco, Peruvian Amazonia. Primate Conservation, 8, 34–36.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bennett, C. L., Leonard, S., & Carter, S. (2001). Abundance, diversity, and patterns of distribution of primates on the Tapiche river in Amazonian Peru. American Journal of Primatology, 54, 119–126.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bodmer, R. E., & Fang, T. G. (1987). Reporte sobre observaciones del huapo rojo (Cacajao calvus) en Quebrada Blanco, Río Tahuayo (Febrero 1987). Unpublished report to the Ministerio de Agricultura, Lima and Iquitos.

  • Bodmer, R. E., Fang, T. G., & Moya Ibañez, L. (1988). Primates and ungulates: a comparison of susceptibility to hunting. Primate Conservation, 9, 79–83.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bowler, M. (2007). The ecology and conservation of the red uakari monkey on the Yavarí river, Peru. PhD thesis, University of Kent, Canterbury.

  • Bowler, M., & Bodmer, R. E. (2009). Social behavior in fission–fusion groups of red uakari monkeys (Cacajao calvus ucayalii). American Journal of Primatology, 71, 976–987.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bowler, M., Noriega Murrieta, J., Recharte, M., Puertas, P., & Bodmer, R. E. (2009). Peruvian red uakari (Cacajao calvus ucayalii) in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve - a range extension across a major river barrier. Neotropical Primates, 16, 34-37.

    Google Scholar 

  • Castro Coronado, N. R. (1991). Behavioral ecology of two coexisting tamarin species (Saguinus fuscicollis nigrifrons and Saguinus mystax mystax, Callitrichidae, Primates) in Amazonian Peru. PhD thesis, Washington University, St Louis.

  • Defler, T. R. (1994). Callicebus torquatus is not a white sand-specialist. American Journal of Primatology, 33, 149–154.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dunbar, R., & Barrett, L. (2000). Cousins—our primate relatives. London: BBC Worldwide.

    Google Scholar 

  • Encarnación, F. (1985). Introducción a la flora y vegetación de la Amazonía peruana: estado actual de los estudios en su medio natural y ensayo de una clave de determinación de las formaciones vegetales en la llanura amazónica. Candollea, 40, 237–252.

    Google Scholar 

  • Falk, D. (2000). Primate diversity. New York: Norton.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ferrari, S. F. (2004). Biogeography of Amazonian primates. In S. L. Mendes & A. G. Chiarello (Eds.), A primatologia no Brasil 8 (pp. 101–122). Vitória: Instituto de Pesquisas da Mata Atlântica/Sociedade Brasileira de Primatologia.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fleagle, J. G. (1999). Primate adaptations and evolution (2nd ed.). New York: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fontaine, R. (1978). Survey of the red uakari (Cacajao calvus rubicundus) in eastern Peru. Unpublished report to the New York Zoological Society.

  • Fontaine, R. (1981). The uakaris, genus Cacajao. In A. F. Coimbra-Filho & R. A. Mittermeier (Eds.), Ecology and behavior of Neotropical primates 1 (pp. 443–493). Rio de Janeiro: Academia Brasileira de Ciências.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fontaine, R. (1990). Reconocimiento y censo del huapo colorado (Cacajao calvus rubicundus) en el oriente peruano. In N. E. Castro Rodríguez (Ed.), La primatología en el Perú. Investigaciones Primatológicas (1973–1985) (pp. 96–103). Lima: Imprenta Propaceb. This is the Spanish version of Fontaine (1978).

    Google Scholar 

  • Geissmann, T. (2003). Vergleichende Primatologie. Heidelberg: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hershkovitz, P. (1987). Uacaries, New World monkeys of the genus Cacajao (Cebidae, Platyrrhini): a preliminary taxonomic review with the description of a new subspecies. American Journal of Primatology, 12, 1–53.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Heymann, E. W. (1989). Observaciones preliminares del mono huapo rojo, Cacajao calvus ucayalii (Primates: Platyrrhini), en el río Blanco, Amazonía Peruana. Medio Ambiente, 10, 113–117.

    Google Scholar 

  • Heymann, E. W. (1990). Further field notes on the red uacari, Cacajao calvus ucayalii, from the Quebrada Blanco, Peruvian Amazonia. Primate Conservation, 11, 7–8.

    Google Scholar 

  • Janson, C. H. (2001). Capuchin-like monkeys. In D. Macdonald (Ed.), The new encyclopedia of mammals (pp. 344–353). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kawai, M. (1979). Ecological and sociological studies of gelada baboons (Contributions to Primatology Vol. 16). Basel: S. Karger.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kinzey, W. G. (1997). New World primates: Ecology, evolution, and behavior. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leonard, S., & Bennett, C. (1995). Behavioral ecology study of red uakari, Cacajao calvus ucayalii, in northeastern Peru. Neotropical Primates, 3, 84.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leonard, S., & Bennett, C. (1996). Associative behavior of Cacajao calvus ucayalii with other primate species in Amazonia Peru. Primates, 37, 227–230.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Malleux, M. O. (1982). Inventarios forestales en bosques tropicales. Lima: Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nystrom, P., & Ashmore, P. (2008). The life of primates. Upper Saddle River: Pearson-Prentice Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Peres, C. A. (1997). Primate community structure at twenty western Amazonian flooded and unflooded forests. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 13, 381–405.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pitman, N., Vriesendorp, C., & Moskovits, D. (2003). Perú: Yavarí. Rapid Biological Inventories Report 11. Chicago: Field Museum.

  • Porter, L. M., & Garber, P. A. (2004). Goeldi’s monkeys: a primate paradox? Evolutionary Anthropology, 13, 104–115.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Preston-Mafham, R., & Preston-Mafham, K. (1999). Primates of the world. London: Blandford.

    Google Scholar 

  • Puertas, P., & Bodmer, R. E. (1993). Conservation of a high diversity primate assemblage. Biodiversity & Conservation, 2, 586–593.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ramirez, M. F. (1989). Feeding ecology and demography of the moustached tamarin Saguinus mystax in northeastern Peru. PhD thesis, City University of New York, New York.

  • Robinson, J. G., Wright, P. C., & Kinzey, W. G. (1987). Monogamous cebids and their relatives: intergroup calls and spacing. In B. B. Smuts, D. L. Cheney, R. M. Seyfarth, R. W. Wrangham, & T. T. Struhsaker (Eds.), Primate societies (pp. 44–53). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Siegel, C. E. (1987). The abundance and diversity of avifaunal species mist-netted in the forest understory at Quebrada Blanco Biological Station (EBQB). Unpublished report to the Dirección General Forestal y de Fauna, Ministerio de Agricultura, Iquitos.

  • Sussman, R. W. (2000). Primate ecology and social structure. New York: Pearson.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vriesendorp, C., Schulenberg, T. S., Alverson, W. S., Moskovits, D. K., & Rojas Moscoso, J. I. (2006). Perú: Sierra del Divisor. Rapid Biological Inventories Report 17. Chicago: Field Museum.

  • Ward, N. S., & Chism, J. (2003). A report on a new geographic location of red uakaris (Cacajao calvus ucayalii) on the Quebrada Tahuaillo in northeastern Peru. Neotropical Primates, 11, 19–22.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

We thank two anonymous reviewers and Joanna Setchell for their constructive comments on the manuscript. E. W. Heymann thanks his field assistants Camilo Flores Amasifuén and Ney Shahuano Tello and all of his students who reported their sightings of red uakaris at the Estación Biológica Quebrada Blanco. Research by E. W. Heymann in the Quebrada Blanco area was supported by grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the Arthur von Gwinner-Stifung, and counted with research permits from the Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales (INRENA) in Lima.

E. W. Heymann dedicates this paper to his wife Ursula Bartecki, who in 1985/86 made the first systematic effort to study red uakaris in the Quebrada Blanco area.

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Eckhard W. Heymann.

Rights and permissions

Open Access This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0), which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Heymann, E.W., Aquino, R. Peruvian Red Uakaris (Cacajao calvus ucayalii) Are Not Flooded-Forest Specialists. Int J Primatol 31, 751–758 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-010-9425-3

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-010-9425-3

Keywords

  • bald-headed uakaris
  • ecology
  • habitat