Vigilance of mustached tamarins in single-species and mixed-species groups—the influence of group composition


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Abstract

Species that participate in mixed-species groups (MSG) may have complementary roles in antipredator strategies. We studied vigilance in mustached tamarins (Saguinus mystax), small arboreal primates that form stable mixed-species groups with saddleback tamarins (Saguinus fuscicollis), in order to examine how the direction of vigilance changes with different species group compositions and whether the division of labor between the two species can be confirmed. We did so by comparing quantitative and qualitative differences in vigilance behavior between same individuals in and out of association (case A); MSG and single-species groups of the same total group size from two different populations (case B); and MSG of the same group size but with a different ratio of conspecifics to heterospecifics (case C). We predicted that individuals would increase downward scanning when heterospecifics are absent or their percentage is low, but total vigilance would increase only in case A due to the group size effect. However, mustached tamarins increased total vigilance due to horizontal scanning in cases A and C, and the predictions were confirmed only in small-sized groups in case B. Thus, we found indications that associating tamarin species in MSG might complement each other in the direction of vigilance, but the division of labor alone does not satisfactorily explain all the findings. There appear to be other mechanisms at work that define how direction of vigilance changes with group size and species composition. Complementarity of species probably occurs due to species vertical stratification rather than differences in the direction of vigilance.

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