Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



International Journal of Primatology 26:5 (October 2005), pp. 1039–1051; doi: 10.1007/s10764-005-6457-1.


Copyright © 2005 Springer Science + Business Media. Used by permission.


Spider monkeys (Ateles spp.) are well known for their highly arboreal lifestyle, spending much of their time in the highest levels of the canopy and rarely venturing to the ground. To investigate terrestriality by Ateles and to illuminate the conditions under which spider monkeys venture to the ground, we analyzed ad libitum data from 5 study sites, covering 2 species and 5 subspecies. Three of the sites are in Central/North America: Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Panama (Ateles geoffroyi panamensis), Santa Rosa National Park, Costa Rica (A. g. frontatus), and Punta Laguna, Mexico (A. g. yucatanensis). The 2 remaining sites are in South America: Cocha Cashu Biological Station, Perú (A. belzebuth chamek) and Yasuni National Park, Ecuador (A. b. belzebuth). Terrestrialism by Ateles at all sites is rare; however, it is more restricted at the 2 South American sites. In South America, ground use only occurred in the contexts of eating soil or rotten wood and visiting salt licks. In contrast at the 3 sites with Ateles geoffroyi it rarely occurred in a feeding context, but instead more frequently while drinking from streams during the dry season, by adult females escaping attack by adult males, and as part of a chase game. In addition, on BCI adult males were on the ground before attacking adult females. We discuss potential explanations, e.g., climate, species differences, predation pressure, for the differences between the Central/North and South American observations.