Sleeping Site Selection by Urban Marmosets (Callithrix penicillata) Under Conditions of Exceptionally High Predator Density
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Domestic cats are known to kill small mammals and birds, and represent a predatory threat to all small wildlife. We investigated whether a high cat density affects the choice of sleeping sites of urban marmosets (Callithrix penicillata). One group of marmosets and ≥115 domestic cats live in an 18-ha area in the Municipal Park of Belo Horizonte City, Minas Gerais, Brazil. We observed the selection of 105 consecutive sleeping sites by the marmosets between January and April, 2009. We observed predation of 3 juvenile marmosets by domestic cats and a mean of 3.24 attempted predation events per day. The park contains 3777 trees of 275 species, but the marmosets chose only 6 different species —3 palms, 2 eucalyptuses, and 1 fig— and a total of 12 different sleeping trees. Sleeping sites appeared to be chosen to minimize the risk of cat predation. Marmosets slept only in tall trees (mean±SD = 22.49 m ± 5.4) with high first branches (mean above-ground level = 10.36 m ± 4.7) and smooth or thorny bark. Marmosets reached sleeping trees from adjacent trees, and neither marmosets nor cats climbed into sleeping trees from the ground. These results suggest that domestic cat predation pressure influences the physical characteristics of marmoset sleeping site selection, e.g., height, to reduce predation rate.
KeywordsCallithrix Domestic cats Predation Sleeping sites Tree characteristics
We thank all of the staff of the Municipal Park, Belo Horizonte who assisted with our study. Dr. Jim Anderson and Prof. Hannah Buchanan-Smith provided many thoughtful comments on the manuscript, and Prof. Adriano Chiarello made additional useful comments. The comments of the editor and 2 anonymous referees also greatly improved the manuscript. This study was funded by FAPEMIG through their grant Pesquisador Mineiro to R. J. Young, and we thank CNPq for their continuing support. M. H. L. Duarte was the recipient of a FAPEMIG postgraduate scholarship during this study.
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