The Short-Term Effects of Hurricane Richard on Diet, Behaviour, and Sub-grouping Patterns of Spider Monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) at Runaway Creek Nature Reserve, Belize
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“The Short-Term Effects of Hurricane Richard on Diet, Behaviour, and Sub-grouping Patterns of Spider Monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) at Runaway Creek Nature Reserve, Belize” Studying the effects of natural disturbances such as hurricanes on primate populations provides valuable insight into species adaptability and their resiliency to major climatic events. We compared activity, diet, and sub-grouping patterns in a community of spider monkeys three months before and after a category 2 hurricane hit central Belize in October, 2010. Due to extensive damage to fruiting trees, we predicted that the monkeys would alter their diet to include more leaves, and that they would forage in smaller subgroups to reduce feeding competition. We also predicted that the monkeys would spend more time travelling in search of scattered resources post-hurricane, and allocate less time to social activities. Paired-sample t-tests determined that consumption of ripe fruit did decrease post-hurricane (P<0.001), while consumption of leaves, unripe fruit and flowers significantly increased relative to pre-hurricane levels. Average subgroup size decreased post-hurricane (P<.001), and sub-groups were more stable, as indicated by a decrease in the hourly rate of subgroup fissions/fusions. Contrary to our predictions, the monkeys spent significantly more time feeding (P=.001) and engaging in social activities (P=.023) post-hurricane, while the amount of time spent traveling and resting did not change. Our study suggests that dietary and grouping flexibility are critical to mitigating the immediate after-effects of major habitat disturbances, and that fission-fusion species such as spider monkeys may exhibit more short-term resiliency to such disturbances.