Variation in Space Use and Social Cohesion Within and Between Four Groups of Woolly Monkeys (Lagothrix lagotricha poeppigii) in Relation to Fruit Availability and Mating Opportunities at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station, Ecuador

  • Kelsey EllisEmail author
  • Anthony Di Fiore


Like other members of their subfamily (e.g., spider monkeys and muriquis), woolly monkeys have long been suspected to have flexible association patterns. Yet, the dispersed nature of woolly monkey groups as they perform their daily activities has made it difficult for previous studies to quantitatively describe how spatial cohesion and ranging dynamics, both within and between groups, may vary over time and in relation to temporal fluctuations in resources, such as fruit and mating opportunities. Using a combination of location and subgroup composition records collected by multiple observers on animals belonging to four neighboring social groups, we found that lowland woolly monkeys (Lagothrix lagotricha poeppigii) at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in Amazonian Ecudaor demonstrate relatively high degrees of fission-fusion dynamics, with groups dividing frequently into subgroups and showing temporally variable cohesion among group members. Associations were not limited to members of a single social group, and tolerant associations between members of some neighboring social groups occurred with relatively high frequency. As observed in other woolly monkey populations, home range overlap between neighboring groups was extensive, with particular pairs of groups showing higher degrees of overlap than others. Although woolly monkeys are considered non-territorial, the four focal social groups retained some exclusivity of their core areas as evidenced by minimal core area overlap during most months of sampling for most pairs of groups. Surprisingly, habitat-wide estimates of fruit availability had little to no influence on the observed variation in group cohesion and ranging patterns among the four groups, while indices of mating opportunities did, suggesting that grouping and ranging dynamics in woolly monkeys may not primarily be the result of competition over food, but rather of competition over mates.


Lagothrix Grouping dynamics Space use Home range overlap Fission-fusion 



We would like to thank the Ecuadorian government and the Ministerio de Ambiente for permission to work in the Yasuní region and the wonderful directors and staff of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito and Tiputini Biodiversity Station for facilitating our primatological research at the site. Special thanks are due to David and Consuelo Romo, Kelly Swing, Diego Mosquera, Gaby Vinueza, Tomi Sugahara, Majo Rendón, and all of the station’s “tigres” who have provided immeasurable logistical support and friendship to our research team in the field. We are grateful for the hard work and dedication of many of our fellow Proyecto Primates team members (Laura Abondano, Rebekah Ellis, Miguel García, Nausica de Gibert, Janel Mayo, Pearson McGovern, Lucy Millington, Evelyn Pain, Sebastián Ramírez, Robyn Reeder, Kelly Sampeck) who spent extended periods in the field collecting the behavioral and phenological data on which the study relies. We further thank our colleagues Becca Lewis, Mariah Hopkins, Andrés Link, and Denné Reed who assisted with the design of this study and Maryjka Blaszczyk and Amanda Perofsky who provided helpful editorial comments in the early stages of writing. This research was funded by NSF BCS-1062540, NSF BCS-1540403, NSF BCS-1638822; the Wenner-Gren, L.S.B. Leakey, and Nacey Maggioncalda Foundations; the National Geographic Society; the Explorers Club; Idea Wild; New York University; and the University of Texas at Austin.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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