Spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis) travel patterns in a subtropical forest of Yucatan, Mexico
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A 12-month study of the ranging behaviour of 11 spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis) was undertaken at the Otochma' ax Yetel Kooh nature reserve in the state of Yucatan, Mexico. The aims were: 1) to evaluate the relationship between ranging patterns of the monkeys and ecological features i.e. climate and food distribution, 2) to assess the efficiency of ranging patterns, and 3) to test the hypothesis that spider monkeys navigate between important sources through spatial memory of key locations. A focal animal was followed daily for as long as possible and details of its ranging patterns recorded by entering positional fixes with a GPS receiver. Behavioural states were included in the observations to link them with the geographical information recorded simultaneously. The results revealed that the ranging patterns of spider monkeys at the study site were determined by the availability of key species of fruit in the area. Ranging was efficient, as evidenced by the fact that in most instances - particularly in the dry season when food was scarce - (1) spider monkeys moved in straight lines to distant food sources, (2) were able to orient their movement toward a food source at distances that could not have been in sight from the point where directed movement originated, and (3) the successive organisation of these linear segments was consistently forward, suggesting an ability to plan ahead of the next food source visited. I present these results as evidence of the use of spatial memory to move efficiently between important sources in their environment, and I argue in favour of higher-level spatial abilities in this species of New World monkeys.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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