ESR prepress abstract  -  doi: 10.3354/esr00787

Increased folivory in brown spider monkeys Ateles hybridus living in a fragmented forest in Colombia

Ana Gabriela de Luna, Andrés Link*, Andrés Montes, Felipe Alfonso, Leonardo Mendieta, Anthony Di Fiore


ABSTRACT: Brown spider monkeys Ateles hybridus are one of the most threatened primates in the Neotropics. Most of the remaining populations of this species either already live in forest fragments or live in areas that face imminent anthropogenic disturbance. Understanding how these animals cope with the challenge of living in small fragments while, at the same time, being a large, frugivorous mammal is crucial to design conservation and management strategies. We studied the diet of wild A. hybridus and measured forest productivity in a small fragment of ~65 ha in the Magdalena Region of northern Colombia over a period of 26 months. Spider monkeys at this site spent far less time feeding on fruits than reported in previous studies on Ateles living in other, less fragmented sites. Moreover, in every month we registered a high consumption of leaves (on average 37% of their feeding time) as well as the consistent inclusion of decayed wood in the diet. Trees from the genus Ficus can be considered staple feeding items, as they were present in high proportions in the diet of brown spider monkeys throughout the study. Although wild populations of spider monkeys can have flexible diets that include large proportions of leaves over long periods of time, they may also be exposed to a suboptimal diet which may have negative implications on their reproduction and wellbeing in the long run, and thus, further compromise the viability of wild populations living in intervened habitats.