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Busia, L; Schaffner, CM; Aureli, F
Publisher: Brill Academic Publishers
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: GN
In most animal species, predation risk is considered the main factor affecting vigilance, and an individual is expected to spend less time vigilant in larger than in smaller groups. However, vigilance patterns in primates appear to differ, with no consistency in group-size effects. As individuals in highly gregarious species such as diurnal primates face frequent threats from group members, there may be increased vigilance in larger groups to monitor conspecifics rather than or in addition to predators. We tested this hypothesis in wild spider monkeys, which live in communities but fission and fuse in subgroups of variable size and membership throughout the same day. We found no overall effect of subgroup size, as traditionally measured, on vigilance. However, a possible explanation is that vigilance may be effectively shared only with individuals in close proximity, rather than with all subgroup members. We found that a larger number of neighbours (i.e., subgroup members within 5 m) was associated with a lower proportion of time individuals spent vigilant, which is similar to findings in other studies. Another social factor that may affect individuals’ vigilance is the possibility of between-community encounters. Higher levels of vigilance can be expected in areas closer to the boundary of the home range, where between-community encounters are more likely to occur compared with non-boundary areas. We found that location in terms of boundary vs. non-boundary areas had a significant effect on the time individuals spent vigilant in the expected direction. We also found that location modulated the effect of subgroup size on vigilance: only in the boundary areas did larger subgroup sizes result in less individual vigilance time. We concluded that conspecifics affect vigilance of wild spider monkeys in multiple ways.

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