Foraging Behavior and Activity Patterns of Alouatta caraya in the Northeastern Argentinean Flooded Forest

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Howling monkeys (Alouatta spp.) are colonizer species, showing a plasticity in behavior that allows them to inhabit different sorts of forests. There is a series of hypotheses relating demography to behavioral and ecological characteristics of howlers: (1) as howler density increases, home range size will decrease; (2) howler groups occupying small home ranges will have a high proportion of leaves in their diet; and, (3) the proportion of mature leaves in the diet is negatively correlated with group daily travel distance. To test hypotheses about howler diet and ranging pattern in relation to food resources, we studied the foraging ecology and general activity patterns of 2 groups of black howlers (Alouatta caraya) inhabiting in flooded forest of Paraná River (Argentina), the habitat with the highest density recorded for Alouatta. We found, in addition to the highest densities, also the smallest home ranges for Alouatta (Group I: 1.7 ha and Group II: 2.2 ha). However, diet was not dominated by leaves, and high quality items—flowers, fruits, new leaves—were a high proportion of the diet all year. Also, daily travel distance is not correlated with the proportion of mature leaves in the diet, but is positively correlated with the number of group confrontations. Finally, we propose a model integrating and interpreting our results as a function of the spatial and temporal distribution of high quality food resources in the Argentinean flooded forest.

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