Monkey Forest Tales: Why some forest has more primates than others?

Over the years I have the opportunity to visit many forests in Colombia and around the world, some of them with many primate species and some without any primate species (like Eucalyptus forest in Australia). So, in today’s post we are going to talk about what make a forest to have more primates than others?

Presence of primates in a forest depends of many factors that goes from historical factors to factors related with the availability of resources (i.e. food, nests, partners) present in those forest. Let’s start with the historical factors…

If we talk in a long-time scale, several thousands of years, presence of primate in a forest depends on the origin of that primate and if that forest had the conditions for those primates species to have originated or dispersed to that forest in ancient years. But if we talk of historical factors but I a small time scale, several years or even a several decades, then presence of a particular primate species depends not only on the original conditions of the forest that allows that primate species to live there but also all the human activities, such as hunting and deforestation of that forest that also influence the presence of those primate species.

For a primate species to live in a forest conditions such as climate, presence of food resources (fruits, insects, nectar, leaves) from the species they like to eat, other individuals of the same species (i.e. potential partners) and potential places to nest need to be present.

Also, some forest has more monkeys species than other because the species living in that forest have different specializations. For example, some of them eat more insects and other eat more fruits, while other eat more leaves. Or some like to move more on the top of the big trees while other like to move closer to the ground or in the middle of the tree forest. Therefore, the food resources in the forest can be used by different species at different heights and that allows many species living in the same forest. Also come species are more active during the day while others prefer the night.

For example, in the study area there are five monkey species, but all of them doesn’t move all the time at the same height, also some of them eat more fruits like dusky titi monkeys, or more leaves like red howler monkeys, while others eat more insects and spiders like black-capped capuchins and Colombian squirrel monkeys. And, some other prefer to be active at night like the Brumback night monkeys.

Sometimes, especially in fragmented areas, monkeys didn’t find all the resources they need in a particular forest fragment, then they have to move to another fragment, so in fragmented areas or areas closer to where we live some forest had lost all or some of the monkeys species that used to live there because the food is not enough or because we had killed them until they disappear…

So, part of the questions we have in Zocay Project are related to understand why some forest fragments have all five monkey species present while others don’t. Up to know our results shows that its depends on how much food resources there is and how big the trees are, but also how many living fences and other forest fragments are nearby. However, these fragments are in continuous change because of our activities so many things can happen that influence which monkeys we can find and for how long living in a particular forest fragment…

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