Monkey Forest Tales: Other interactions between Colombian squirrel monkeys and other primates

Today post is the second in a series of two post about interactions between primate species observed in the study area. Over the years I have spent most of my time in the study area with Colombian squirrel monkeys (Saimiri cassiquiarensis albigena) than with any other primate species and during that time I have observed this species interacting with other primate species in the forest fragments in which they live. Most of these interactions have been friendly (affiliative behaviors). In this post I will describe some short interactions between squirrel monkeys and red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus), and dusky titi monkeys (Plecturocebus ornatus). In continuous areas interactions between these species are rare, except on big fig trees and in most cases both red howler monkeys and dusky titi monkeys leave the fig tree when the squirrel monkeys arrive.

Interactions with red howler monkeys: the first interaction I want to share is a play interaction between a juvenile male of red howler monkeys and a group of juveniles and subadults of squirrel monkey. Red howler monkeys were resting on a big tree, while squirrel monkeys were eating and searching insects around them, going around on the ground, some on the top of big trees, some on the middle branches and others on the lower branches. Most of the juveniles of squirrel monkeys were playing around, chasing each other. Then between the juvenile group of squirrel monkeys there were a juvenile red howler monkeys chasing them, there were not aggressive sound of any of the two species. The squirrel monkeys were chasing him and then he chase them in a playful way. Even with the howler going to the ground after them and then going back up when she saw me. The interaction last around 15 minutes and no aggression were seen between the two species.

The second interaction occur over several years in a small fragment (± 5 ha) where a group of howlers live and was joined by a solitary male for several years. Feeding, moving and even sleeping in the same tree that the red howler group were resting. The squirrel monkey was seen living with this group for several years after he disappear. The squirrel monkey male was rarely seen alone during those years. Most of the time this individual was observed alone, he was feeding on insects on the back of the forest fragments, a flooded area of the fragment with small trees and dense vines. A couple of years after another solitary male of squirrel monkey was seen again with that group of howler monkeys. Could this be a way to avoid predation for the squirrel monkey male? Why does squirrel monkeys remain alone for several years instead of be part of a bachelor group?

Interactions with dusky titi monkeys: Most of these interactions are short in duration as some of the dusky titi monkeys in the fragment seems to avoid the squirrel monkey groups. However, sometimes you can observe a couple of squirrel monkey females eating in the same big tree where a dusky titi monkey group is feeding. Most of these interactions occurs when the squirrel monkey group is moving and feeding at a slow pace, while the dusky titi monkeys are just feeding.

Dusty titi monkeys usually avoid squirrel monkey groups when those ones are joined by a capuchin monkey group, which dusky titi monkeys seems to avoid as much as possible in the study area. This avoidance is probably a product of the potential predation risk that capuchin monkeys represent for dusky titi monkey. There is one report of capuchin monkeys feeding on a red-bellied titi monkey (Callicebus moloch; Sampaio & Ferrari 2005) and they had also been observed consuming a Brumback nigh monkey in the study area (Aotus brumbacki; Carretero et al 2008).


Carretero-Pinzón X., Defler T.R. and Ferrari, S. F. 2008. Observation of Black-Capp ed Capuch ins (Cebus apella) Feeding on an Owl Monkey (Aotus brumbac ki) in the Colombian Llanos. Neotropical Primates 15(2): 62 – 63.

Sampaio, D. T. and Ferrari, S. F. 2005. Predation of an infant titi monkey (Callicebus moloch) by tufted capuchins (Cebus apella). Folia Primatologica 76:113– 115

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Monkey Forest Tales: A day with a mixed troop of Colombian squirrel monkey and black-capped capuchins

Today post is the first in a series of two post about interactions between primate species observed in the study area. This time we are going to join a common association between a group of Colombian squirrel monkeys (Saimiri cassiquiarensis albigena) and a group of black-capped capuchins (Sapajus apella). These species commonly make mixed troops, where groups of these two species eat and move together for several hours or days. The groups in our story live in a fragmented area with small fragments and live fences connecting them.

Our group of squirrel monkeys has 32 individuals: 4 males, 8 females, 3 sub adults, 10 juveniles of different age and 8 infants. And our group of black-capped capuchins has 6 individuals: one male, 2 females, 2 juveniles and one baby. They wake up early, when the sun was rising, around 5:30 am we start hearing squirrel monkey sound first, and from time to time you can hear a capuchin monkey sound too. They meet the day before close to the border of a forest fragment. They eat together in a big fig tree on a live fence and continue together to a small fragment, which they usually use to sleep. This fragment is connected to a bigger fragment by live fences full of fruit trees.

The new day start with some movements from the juveniles and females, from both species, they just start moving looking for some insects to catch, looking under dead and live leaves, removing some small branches, just searching. Babies were in their mothers back, a couple of them taking some milk from their mom, while they trying to catch some insects. All individuals from both species start eating fruits of several trees around the palms where they spend the night, others search for insects. Most of the capuchins on the top part of the trees, while the squirrel monkeys were eating in the lower branches and smaller trees. All babies are on the backs of their mothers now. It’s the beginning of April and the forest and live fences are full of fruits and there is more insects around because of the rain.

After a few minutes, capuchins start moving outside of the forest fragment and along the live fences, followed by squirrel monkeys. They were all more or less in a line, looking for fruits and insect while they were moving slowly. Two hours had passed when they reach the biggest fragment, individuals of both species disperse along the fragment edge, eating on small purple fruits from Miconia’s trees. After a while, capuchin and squirrel monkey juveniles start chasing between them, running and jumping from branch to branch. From time to time even a subadult male of squirrel monkey join the game. The game is simple, one start chasing the others, when one individual is catch, his tail is pulled and that individual start chasing the rest of the juveniles. There is a lot of screams from the juveniles playing around.

It’s almost midday and the air is hot; a soft wind came in from the forest edge. A capuchin male is resting in a wide branch groomed by a female with her baby in her chest, suckling some milk. Squirrel monkey females are grouped in a nearby tree on different branches, resting in pairs, while their babies move around them in an awkward way.

Around 2 pm, the squirrel monkey females start moving around searching for insects, some of the juveniles are still playing. Then the capuchin male start moving a bit faster, all his group follow him, while the squirrel monkeys seems to be trying to decide if they follow them or not. After a couple of minutes of doubt, squirrel monkeys start moving faster in the same direction that capuchins did. Suddenly, they stop, they found a group of big trees of Nispero and start eating dispersed between trees. There are some Mamito and Brosium trees too, individuals of both speies disperse between all trees, eating, all mixed. Some individuals are searching for insects, too. From time o time you can see a capuchin monkey or a squirrel monkey just looking at the sky and on the ground. They seems to be looking for any sign of danger. A big bird shadow is on the sky. A juvenile of squirrel monkey had saw it first and make a sound that alerts everyone. It’s false alarm, it was just a vulture playing with the wind currents, gliding.

Half an hour later, everyone start moving fast again. Jumping from one branch to the other. Occasionally one individual catch a spider. After a while they found a clump of Anime trees, it’s open red skin shows the sweet white pulp. Fruits are ready to be eaten. Females start eating them, while juveniles start playing again. A scream is hear and a couple of squirrel monkey females run towards the ground, they were chased by a capuchin female, who wanted to eat on their spot. A couple of subadult are searching for insects near to the ground. The group disperse to eat again. There are animals moving all around.

It’s around 5 pm and the movement starts again, slowly. They move, and eat some fruits and insects, not stopping, they have a direction again. Suddenly, they reach a part of the forest where a group of Unama palms are clumped, a place both species love to use as a dormitory. They probably will spend the night here. The first ones to enter are the females, they sit together, babies in the middle. Juveniles of both species are still playing together, chasing each other and screaming. Some squirrel monkey males and a capuchin male are still eating insects near to the top of a big tree. The sun is hiding and almost all movements stops. All capuchin monkeys in a couple of palms and squirrel monkeys in the remaining ones. They are ready to spend the night on those palms. It’s almost 6:30 pm and the sun is gone.

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Monkey Forest Tales: A day in the life of a Red howler monkey


Unamas - SR Enero 2012 394Today post is the fifth and final post in the series of posts about a day in the life of a group of monkeys. This time we are going to join a group of red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus). Our red howler monkeys’ group is composed of 8 individuals, two adult males (an alpha and a beta), two adult females, one subadult female and a juvenile male and two babies, a male and a female. Red howler monkeys are big reddish monkeys which faces looks like both males and females had a beard. The reason for this is that in both sexes, although a bit more in males, the hyoids bone is large and it’s the reason for their loud and deep guttural vocalizations can be hear by kilometers.

Our group started their day around 5:30 am with the males howling when the sunrise started. The females were feeding their babies but after a few minutes they join them. A couple of other groups were howling in the distance, answering our groups call. Juvenile and subadult were still sleepy when they started howling, but after an hour they both join. The howling lasted until 7:30 with the alpha male howling almost all the time and the rest of the group joining him from time to time.

Around 8 am the females start moving with their babies in their lower back, their movements fast, agile and silent from branch to branch, a few jumps but mostly like walking between branches. Suddenly, they stop in a tall tree, they start eating white flowers from a Platanote tree, this trees produces a white flower with sweet smell and big green fruits like plantain (that’s why is called Platanote in Spanish), those fruits dry and open and all the winged seed fly with the wind after a while. Then they move to and Anime tree and eat some young leaves, the whole group stay eating young leaves for a while, while the babies start playing to bite each other hanging from their tails.

They move for another hour or so, stopping to eat some fruits and some leaves from different trees until they reach a big tree of Avichure full of pink flowers. The whole tree crown was cover with flowers and only a few branches tips have some new leaves. Around 11:30 the juvenile and babies were moving playing around, chasing each other and then hanging and biting. The females rest together close to the alpha male. The beta male was eating at the farthest branch. It was time for a nap.

Slowly the babies when back to their mothers and drink some milk from them. It wasn’t until around 2 pm that females start eating some flowers again, the subadult females was grooming the alpha male and the babies were playing again.

The group start moving again around 2:30 pm, very fast with a clear direction, one after the other, first the oldest female, followed by the alpha male and the other females, then the juvenile and the beta male at the end, in a line. They stop in another Avichure tree this one had less flowers and more light green young leaves. This time the babies also tried a bit of leaves from their mothers’ mouths. After a while one female start grooming the male, her baby running around them, and from time to time pulling the males’ tail. It was almost four when they start to move again, slowly this time. They were moving towards a tall, big tree cover by vines and lianas. They dormitory for this night sleep. The first ones to sit down to sleep where the females, however, the babies were moving around making noises and jumping. Then the alpha male join them, very close to them. The juvenile and subadult where grooming a nearby branch. The beta male was the last to enter the tree and sit down in a different branch than the rest of the group. Around 5 pm no more movements were seen. The group was ready for the night sleep.

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Unamas - SR Enero 2012 390

Monke Forest Tales: A day in the life of a Black-capped capuchin

San Martín Abril - Mayo 2011 104 (2)

Today post is the fourth in the series of posts about a day in the life of a group of monkeys. This time we are going to join a group of black-capped capuchin monkeys (Sapajus apella). This black capped capuchin monkeys live in small group of 6 individuals, with one male, two females, two juveniles and one baby. They are medium sized monkeys with yellow coat and dark face, legs and tail, and very strong jaw.

Our group started their day around 6:00 am when the sunrise was over, it start with some movements from the juveniles and females, a female scratch her leg while her baby drink some milk from her and then, get back to her back when she moves. Juveniles start searching for insects, looking under dead and live leaves, breaking small branches and sending debris all around them.

Then, the group found a couple of Mamito trees with their big reddish pulp and start eating from them. The group disperse to eat, vocalizing to keep contact between them. The baby grab some pulp from his mom hand and taste it. They are still near to the big tree where they spend the night. After a while, they start moving slowly to other trees with small black fruits near to the edge of the forest. The forest is full of fruits and insects, the air is humid, the rainy season had started in the area.

After some hundreds of meters of relatively fast moving while eating insects, the group start to move slowly again. Juveniles start chasing between them, running and jumping from branch to branch. The baby join them after a while and they all hug and bite each other forming a small of arms and faces, screaming. The females are eating again some small yellow fruits from a nearby tree with wide branches. The juveniles stop their playing to join the adult and eat. The male is breaking some branches searching for insects, eating some cockroach and spiders hiding on dead leaves.

It’s almost noon and the adults stop moving. A female is grooming her baby sitting in a wide branch next to the males who is laying down with his leg hanging. The other females is a in another branch grooming a juvenile. After some quiet and calm minutes, the juveniles start playing again, chasing each other, while the adults are resting. The baby moves close to her mom, running a little bit and biting small branches nearby.  After a while, the juvenile join the adult and rest with them.

Around 2 pm, they start moving again. They move fast and with a clear direction. Suddenly they stop in an Anime tree to eat some fruits. Juveniles eat a bit there and start playing again. The group starts dispersing a bit, all looking for some insect and slowly moving towards the ground. They are close to the forest edge. Some individuals are searching for insects, others are eating small purple fruits, while the male look at the sky and on the ground. He is looking for any sign of danger. A big Caracara moves across the sky.

They are near to the ground, the juveniles and baby playing again, making a lot of noise and chasing each other on the ground, the rest of the group searching and eating insects and spiders in the nearby trees and on the ground. After a couple of hours of slow movements in the lower branches and close to the ground, the group start moving faster and in higher branches. It’s getting darker. The sky is cloudy, and a soft wind is moving the branches.

It’s around 5 pm and they slow down a bit, they are close to a group of Unama palms that they use as dormitory from time to time. They eat from some Anime and Nispero trees around. Juveniles searching for insects and eating some fruits too. Around movement starts again, slowly. They move, and eat some fruits and insects, not 5:45 only juveniles seems to be moving, jumping from one leave to the other, chasing each other, the baby playing with them. It’s almost 6:30 pm and the sun is gone. All movement had stopped, and only occasional sound can be hear. The group is resting.

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