Where Do Spider Monkeys Sleep?

December 21, 2023

In their native habitat in Central America, the brown-headed spider monkey is an arboreal creature that rarely sees the ground. The acrobatic primate can leap up to 9 meters (30 ft) between trees, earning it the nicknames “trapeze artists of the jungle” and “monkey acrobats.” They are also quite smart: their brain is half as large as that of a human and they use auditory communications (like screech and barking) to mark their territories and scare off predators. Baby spider monkeys ride on their mothers’ backs and are fully dependent for their first month.

The spider monkey is also a frugivore and deposit copious amounts of seeds in their latrines. This behavior results in a clumped seed deposition pattern that directly impacts forest regeneration. However, little is known about the density and spatial distribution of sleeping sites or latrines and their characteristics, particularly when animals are forced to inhabit fragmented forest conditions, such as those in Los Tuxtlas and Lacandona.

We have been observing and tracking the behaviors of a subgroup of spider monkeys for some time, and recently conducted a survey to examine their sleeping site selection and location. To do this we followed the monkeys and recorded when they reached their desired sleeping tree, then returned before sunrise to record when they left (for safety reasons, one camera per sleeping site was used as we did not want to disturb the monkeys). We also surveyed the canopy to locate their latrines.

Mission

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