Predation of Alouatta puruensis by Boa constrictor


Reports of successful predator attacks on primates are rare. Primates from all major radiations are particularly susceptible to raptors, carnivores, and snakes. Among New World primates, reports of snake predation are limited to medium- and small-bodied species. Here, we report the first documented case of successful predation of an atelid by a snake—an adult female Purús red howler monkey, Alouatta puruensis, that was subdued by a ca. 2-m-long Boa constrictor in an arboreal setting at a height of 7.5 m above the ground. The victim belonged to a group composed of six individuals (one adult male, two adult females, two juveniles, and one infant) that inhabited a ca. 2.5-ha forest fragment in the State of Rondônia, western Brazilian Amazon. The boa applied the species’ typical hunting behavior of striking and immediately coiling around its prey and then killing it through constriction (probably in less than 5 min), but the entire restraint period lasted 38 min. The attack occurred around noon. The howler was swallowed head-first in 76 min. The only group member to respond to the distress vocalization emitted by the victim was the other adult female, which was closest to the location where the attack occurred. This female ran toward the snake, also vocalizing, and hit it with her hands several times, but the snake did not react and she moved off to a nearby tree from where she watched most of the interaction. The remaining group members stayed resting at a height approximately 15 m above the victim in a nearby tree without showing any overt signs of stress, except for a single whimper vocalization. This event indicates that even large-bodied atelids are vulnerable to predation by large snakes and suggests that B. constrictor may be a more common predator of primates.

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We thank Paul A. Garber for constructive comments on an earlier version of this paper, Salete Bergamin Quintino for logistical and financial support for this study at Sítio São José, and Abdias Mota dos Santos, Cristiane Teixeira dos Santos, Marcus Vinícius Quintino, Bruna Analete Quintino, Leandro Cordeiro Arêdes, and Renilda Aires for help in different steps of this research. E.P.Q. is supported by a graduate fellowship from the Brazilian Higher Education Authority/CAPES, and J.C.B.-M. is supported by a research fellowship from the Brazilian National Research Council/CNPq (PQ #303154/2009-8).

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Correspondence to Júlio César Bicca-Marques.

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Quintino, E.P., Bicca-Marques, J.C. Predation of Alouatta puruensis by Boa constrictor . Primates 54, 325–330 (2013).

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  • Purús red howler monkey
  • Boid snake
  • Predator
  • Habitat loss
  • Amazon