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International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 922–936 | Cite as

Spider Monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi yucatenensis) Cope with the Negative Consequences of Hurricanes Through Changes in Diet, Activity Budget, and Fission–Fusion Dynamics

  • Colleen M. Schaffner
  • Luisa Rebecchini
  • Gabriel Ramos-Fernandez
  • Laura G. Vick
  • Filippo Aureli
Article

Abstract

Hurricanes can bring about dramatic changes to ecosystems and adversely affect animals that live in them. We monitored behavioral responses in wild spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis) in the aftermath of two hurricanes (Emily and Wilma) that moved through the Yucatan peninsula in 2005. We predicted that the monkeys would shift their diets depending on relative food availability and experience a change in the distribution of activity patterns. Because spider monkeys’ social organization is characterized by a high degree of fission–fusion dynamics, we predicted they would form smaller subgroups subsequent to the hurricanes to mitigate competition over limited food resources. We compared their responses in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Emily and across the dry seasons before and after both hurricanes, to control for seasonal changes, by examining their activity budgets, foods consumed, and subgrouping dynamics. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Emily spider monkeys spent less time moving and more time feeding on leaves than before the hurricane and they were in smaller subgroups. In the dry season after both hurricanes the monkeys spent more time resting and less time moving than before the hurricanes, and leaves replaced fruit as their primary food resource. They fused into larger subgroups less often and had smaller subgroup sizes in the dry season after than before the hurricanes. Thus, the high degree of fission–fusion dynamics of spider monkeys was instrumental in affording the behavioral flexibility critical to cope with the negative post-hurricane consequences.

Keywords

Ateles Competition reduction Diet changes Environmental change 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Pronatura Peninsula de Yucatan for logistical support and the coordination of the permission to conduct our research. We also thank Eulogio Canul-Aban, Macedonio Canul-Chan, Augusto Canul-Aban, Juan Canul-Chan, Norberto Asensio, and Nicola Forshaw for valuable assistance in the field. We thank the community of Punta Laguna for their support of the long-term spider monkey project. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their supportive and constructive comments. We thank The British Academy, The Wenner-Gren Foundation, CONACYT J51278, The University of Chester, Instituto Politécnico Nacional, William Peace University, and The North of England Zoological Society for support of the long-term project. We also thank the Santander Universities Scheme and the Gladstone Bursary scheme of The University of Chester for support to L. Rebecchini.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colleen M. Schaffner
    • 1
    • 2
  • Luisa Rebecchini
    • 1
  • Gabriel Ramos-Fernandez
    • 3
  • Laura G. Vick
    • 4
  • Filippo Aureli
    • 2
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ChesterChesterUK
  2. 2.Instituto de NueroetologiaUniversidad VeracruzanaXalapaMexico
  3. 3.CIIDIR Unidad Oaxaca, Instituto Politecnico NacionalOaxacaMexico
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologyWilliam Peace UniversityRaleighUSA
  5. 5.Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology and Palaeoecology, School of Natural Sciences and PsychologyLiverpool John Moores UniversityLiverpoolUK

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