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Spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis) activity patterns and habitat use in relation to forest type in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve

Bell, Nicolette (2020) BION03 20192
Degree Projects in Biology
Abstract
Effective conservation strategies require an understanding of how species respond to environmental change. This study was undertaken to evaluate the behavioural response of spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis) to changing habitat conditions, in terms of activity budget, habitat use, and range. Using data collected in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve between 2014-2019 on activity budgets, top food sources and their basal area, and GPS coordinates, we sought to define the relationship between spider monkey behaviour and range to habitat variables including fruit availability and forest structure. We found evidence of strong site fidelity by this spider monkey community, with very little variation in home range placement over time.... (More)
Effective conservation strategies require an understanding of how species respond to environmental change. This study was undertaken to evaluate the behavioural response of spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis) to changing habitat conditions, in terms of activity budget, habitat use, and range. Using data collected in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve between 2014-2019 on activity budgets, top food sources and their basal area, and GPS coordinates, we sought to define the relationship between spider monkey behaviour and range to habitat variables including fruit availability and forest structure. We found evidence of strong site fidelity by this spider monkey community, with very little variation in home range placement over time. Our results confirmed that spider monkeys prefer primary forest with a large proportion of fruiting trees, as has been shown in previous studies. Their annual mean activity budget differed significantly over time, as well as their energy allocation in areas of forest with key resources. We found strong evidence to support these variables as the main influences on spider monkey behaviour, but comprehensive habitat data would be key in drawing more definitive conclusions. Our findings can be used as a step towards further research into primate behaviour and range use in the face of changing climatic conditions. (Less)
Popular Abstract
Why would spider monkeys change their lifestyle?

It doesn’t take a huge leap of logic to realise that your lifestyle will change when your environment changes. If you live close to a park or greenspace, you’re more likely to be more active and spend time outside; and if there’s a global pandemic you’re probably less active and (hopefully) spending more time indoors. The same holds true for non-humans as well; we can assume they will behave differently when their habitat and environment change – but to what extent, and how?

A particular subspecies of spider monkeys – the Geoffroy’s spider monkey – is found throughout Central America. A large population lives in the Mexican province of Campeche within the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve.... (More)
Why would spider monkeys change their lifestyle?

It doesn’t take a huge leap of logic to realise that your lifestyle will change when your environment changes. If you live close to a park or greenspace, you’re more likely to be more active and spend time outside; and if there’s a global pandemic you’re probably less active and (hopefully) spending more time indoors. The same holds true for non-humans as well; we can assume they will behave differently when their habitat and environment change – but to what extent, and how?

A particular subspecies of spider monkeys – the Geoffroy’s spider monkey – is found throughout Central America. A large population lives in the Mexican province of Campeche within the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. This is an area where over 7,000km2 of forest are protected by UNESCO as culturally and naturally valuable. This reserve contains hundreds of unexcavated Mayan ruins, which is one reason thousands of species are found there, including spider monkeys. Why exactly would animals like spider monkeys be so abundant at archaeological sites? It’s not necessarily that they’re interested in the history, but rather that the ancient Mayans had cultivated vast groves of fruit trees that even today make up the majority of the diet for many fruit-eaters in Calakmul.

Different fruit tree species are found throughout different parts of the reserve. Natural variation in factors like rainfall and soil composition affect the trees that spider monkeys rely on. Each tree species and even each individual tree will produce different amounts and quality of fruit each year. Because of these variations, spider monkeys also change their lifestyle to cope. The amount of time spider monkeys spend doing activities like travelling, eating, or socialising changes over time. Looking at how animals spend their time – also known as their activity budget – is one of the best ways for scientists to learn about a species.

Conserving animals when the environment changes
Even though spider monkeys can move very quickly through the treetops and cover long distances in a single day, they tend to spend most of their time in one part of the forest. The area where an animal lives and regularly spends time in searching for resources like food is known as their home range, and we found that spider monkeys had fairly consistent home ranges over time. However, the boundaries of these ranges changed each year, probably because of where the highest quality fruit could be found.

When a species’ or population’s location changes year to year, how can conservation scientists plan to protect their habitat? Knowledge is power! The more we know, the better we can protect vital resources and save more primates. Field studies like this one can shine light on the movements and habits of primates like spider monkeys, which in turn helps us to take action to better protect them and their homes.

Master’s Degree Project in Biology 60 credits 2020
Department of Biology, Lund University


Academic advisor: Ola Olsson
Biodiversity Unit, Department of Biology
On-site advisor: Kathy Slater
Research Department, Operation Wallacea Trust (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Bell, Nicolette
supervisor
organization
course
BION03 20192
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
language
English
id
9038708
date added to LUP
2021-01-28 14:21:02
date last changed
2021-01-28 14:21:02
@misc{9038708,
  abstract     = {Effective conservation strategies require an understanding of how species respond to environmental change. This study was undertaken to evaluate the behavioural response of spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis) to changing habitat conditions, in terms of activity budget, habitat use, and range. Using data collected in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve between 2014-2019 on activity budgets, top food sources and their basal area, and GPS coordinates, we sought to define the relationship between spider monkey behaviour and range to habitat variables including fruit availability and forest structure. We found evidence of strong site fidelity by this spider monkey community, with very little variation in home range placement over time. Our results confirmed that spider monkeys prefer primary forest with a large proportion of fruiting trees, as has been shown in previous studies. Their annual mean activity budget differed significantly over time, as well as their energy allocation in areas of forest with key resources. We found strong evidence to support these variables as the main influences on spider monkey behaviour, but comprehensive habitat data would be key in drawing more definitive conclusions. Our findings can be used as a step towards further research into primate behaviour and range use in the face of changing climatic conditions.},
  author       = {Bell, Nicolette},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis) activity patterns and habitat use in relation to forest type in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve},
  year         = {2020},
}