Howler Monkeys pp 317-336 | Cite as

The Sensory Systems of Alouatta: Evolution with an Eye to Ecology

  • Laura T. Hernández SalazarEmail author
  • Nathaniel J. Dominy
  • Matthias Laska
Part of the Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects book series (DIPR)


Our knowledge about the perceptual world of howler monkeys is unevenly distributed between the five senses. Whereas there is abundant knowledge about the sense of vision in the genus Alouatta, only limited data on the senses of hearing, smell, taste, and touch are available. The discovery that howler monkeys are the only genus among the New World primates to possess routine trichromacy has important implications for the evolution of color vision and therefore has been studied intensively. Detailed information about the genetic mechanisms and physiological processes underlying color vision in howler monkeys are available. Although the sound production, vocal repertoire, and acoustic communication in the genus Alouatta have been well documented, basic physiological measures of hearing performance such as audiograms are missing. Similarly, despite an increasing number of observational studies on olfactory communication in howler monkeys, there is a complete lack of physiological studies on the efficiency of their sense of smell. Information about the senses of taste and touch is even scarcer and mainly restricted to a description of their anatomical basis. A goal of this chapter is to summarize our current knowledge of the anatomy, physiology, genetics, and behavioral relevance of the different senses in howler monkeys in comparison to other platyrrhines.


Sensory modalities Communication Neotropical primates 


El conocimiento que tenemos de las percepciones en los monos aulladores no es igual para los cinco sentidos. Mientras que para el género Alouatta existe un vasto conocimiento acerca de la visión, existen datos limitados para el resto de sus sentidos, oído, olfato, gusto y tacto. El hallazgo de que los monos aulladores son el único género entre los primates del Nuevo Mundo que poseen una visión tricrómata, tiene una importante implicación para la evolución de la visión a color y por ello, ha sido ampliamente estudiada. Existe información detallada acerca de los mecanismos genéticos y procesos fisiológicos subyacentes a la visión del color en los aulladores, así como para la producción de sonido, el repertorio vocal y la comunicación acústica, aunque falta información de las medidas fisiológicas básicas de la audición, como son los audiogramas. De manera similar, a pesar del creciente número de estudios observacionales sobre la comunicación olfativa en los monos aulladores, no se cuentan con estudios fisiológicos sobre la eficiencia de su sentido del olfato. La información sobre los sentidos del gusto y el tacto es aún más limitada y, es restringida a su base anatómica. Este capítulo tiene como objetivo resumir el conocimiento actual acerca de la anatomía, fisiología, genética y la relevancia a nivel conductual del uso de los diferentes sentidos en los monos aulladores en comparación con otros platirrinos.



We thank the editors of this volume for their invitation to contribute to the present volume. Many thanks go to Greg Willis for providing photographs of A. palliata. This chapter benefited from the comments of three anonymous referees whose input shaped its final form. We are greatly indebted to them and their effort.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura T. Hernández Salazar
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nathaniel J. Dominy
    • 2
  • Matthias Laska
    • 3
  1. 1.Instituto de NeuroetologiaUniversidad VeracruzanaXalapaMexico
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA
  3. 3.IFM Biology, Section of ZoologyLinköping UniversityLinköpingSweden

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