Growth of Mantled Howler Groups in a Regenerating Costa Rican Dry Forest
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We examined population dynamics in mantled howlers (Alouatta palliata palliata) in a regenerating tropical dry forest in Santa Rosa National Park (SRNP), Costa Rica. The population has grown at a rate of about 7% per annum during the past decade. The growth in numbers from 342 in 1984 to 554 in 1992 reflects an increase in the number of groups (from 25 to 34) and a slight increase in their average size (from 13.6 to 16.3). Population density has increased from 4.9 to 7.9 individuals per km2. Santa Rosa's population density and group compositions are similar to those at several other mantled howler sites, but densities of mantled howlers are much higher at two other well-studied sites: La Pacifica and Barro Colorado Island (BCI). We relate the low density of howlers at Santa Rosa to local historical and ecological factors. Howler populations at high and low densities differ in average group size and sex ratio. At high population densities, groups are larger and include more adult females. The number of male howlers per group appears to be more strictly limited and less variable than the number of females is. However, there is greater variation in male group membership at Santa Rosa than at La Pacifica or BCI, and at Santa Rosa there are more generating forests available into which males and females can disperse and form new groups. We present case studies describing two ways in which new howler groups are formed, and we suggest that, compared to females and compared to males at high density sites, males are relatively advantaged in the uncrowded habitats at Santa Rosa and other low density sites.
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