In today’s post we are going to explore the importance of monkeys as predators, an important function inside of the food web in forest fragments.
As part of the diet of many species of monkey they consume animal preys of different sizes. Some species consume only insects, mollusk and spiders, but some other also consume small vertebrates such as birds, frogs, small mammals and lizards. Therefore, they became predators to some animals in the forest where they live.
Predators meet an important function in food webs and in the general functioning of ecosystems by controlling the populations of the species they predate on. One example of how monkeys help in this matter is when they predate on caterpillars from some butterfly species who can eat a complete tree during their populations boom.
In the study area black-capped capuchins and Colombian squirrel monkeys had been observed feeding on those caterpillar for several days on the same tree, reducing their population and in this way helping that tree to survive.
Black capped capuchins and Colombian squirrel monkeys are also opportunistic predators of small vertebrates such as birds, small mammals, frogs and lizards, having an important influence in the population dynamics of these animals as in some cases they predate more often on younger animals such bird eggs or chicks and mammals babies (Carretero-Pinzón et al 2008, Fragszy et al 2004).
Observations of dusky titi monkeys and Brumback nigh monkeys consuming insects and spider also suggest that they fulfill a function as predators, although with lower intensity than black-capped capuchins and Colombian squirrel monkeys.
Red howler monkeys is an herbivorous species which mainly consume fruits, flowers and leaves. Although it has been reported an opportunistic consumption of chicken eggs in fragmented areas of Brazil for a related species (Bicca-Marques et al, 2009), this behavior had not been observed in the study area.
Bicca-Marques JC, Barboza-Muhle C, Mattjie Prates H, Garcia de Oliveira S, Calegaro-Marques C (2009) Habitat impoverishment and egg predation by Alouatta caraya. International Journal of Primatology 30: 743-748.
Carretero-Pinzón, X., Defler, T.R. & S. Ferrari. 2008. Wild Black Capped capuchins (Cebus apella) feeding on a night monkey (Aotus brumbacki) in eastern Colombian Llanos. Neotropical Primates 15 (2): 62 – 63.
Fragaszy, D.M., Visalberghi, E., and L.M. Fedigan (eds) 2004b. The complete capuchin: The biology of the genus Cebus, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
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