Title

Mantled Howler Monkeys (Alouatta palliata) in a Costa Rican Forest Fragment Do Not Modify Activity Budgets or Spatial Cohesion in Response to Anthropogenic Edges

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-2021

Abstract

Forest fragmentation increases forest edge relative to forest interior, with lower vegetation quality common for primates in edge zones. Because most primates live in human-modified tropical forests within 1 km of their edges, it is critical to understand how primates cope with edge effects. Few studies have investigated how primates inhabiting a fragment alter their behaviour across forest edge and interior zones. Here we investigate how anthropogenic edges affect the activity and spatial cohesion of mantled howler monkeys (Alouatta palliata) at the La Suerte Biological Research Station (LSBRS), a Costa Rican forest fragment. We predicted the monkeys would spend greater proportions of their activity budget feeding and resting and a lower proportion travelling in edge compared to forest interior to compensate for lower resource availability in the edge. We also predicted that spatial cohesion would be lower in the edge to mitigate feeding competition. We collected data on activity and spatial cohesion (nearest neighbour distance; number of individuals within 5 m) in forest edge and interior zones via instantaneous sampling of focal animals. Contrary to predictions, the monkeys spent equal proportions of time feeding, resting and travelling in forest edge and interior. Similarly, there were no biologically meaningful differences in the number of individuals or the distance between nearest neighbours in the edge (1.0 individuals; 1.56 m) versus the interior (0.8 individuals; 1.73 m). Our results indicate that A. palliata at LSBRS do not adjust their activity or spatial cohesion patterns in response to anthropogenic edge effects, suggesting that the monkeys here exhibit less behavioural flexibility than A. palliata at some other sites. To develop effective primate conservation plans, it is therefore crucial to study primate species' responses to fragmentation across their geographic range.

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