Territorial, expert navigators: The black howler monkeys of Mexico

January 29, 2021

An international team of researchers led by Oxford Brookes University shows that black howler monkeys in Mexico not only remember where important events took place in their habitat, but also when to return to such locations.

The researchers recorded the behaviour of five groups of black howler monkeys accumulating over 3,000 hours of field observations at Palenque National Park, southern Mexico.

Expert fruit foragers

Black howler monkeys were observed navigating deliberately towards out of sight fruit trees that were ripening. Fruit is a desired food by many animals in rainforests so being able to anticipate when fruit is going to be available and where, is a great strategy to forage ahead of competitors. The monkeys selected a small subset of fruit trees with easy-to-remember ripening cycles - showing, like humans, a tendency to minimise information processed during navigation.

Lead researcher Dr Miguel de Guinea expert in Evolutionary Anthropology, Oxford Brookes University said: "In the same way that we remember the location of our favourite restaurants, primates remember the locations of their favourite fruit trees in rainforests. But there is a clear difference: fruit trees, instead of following established opening hours, can produce fruit at different times of the year during very specific windows. It is fascinating and impressive that a relatively small-brained primate can memorise the ripening patterns of many different trees and anticipate the emergence of fruits."

Vocal warning at set locations to ward off rival troops

The research found that black howler monkeys travelled in long, straight lines, before reaching a location where they had previously encountered a neighbouring troop. After reaching these locations, the monkeys used loud calls to warn neighbouring primate groups of their territorial range. The groups of monkeys started travelling in a completely different direction afterwards, indicating that they purposely navigate to these set locations.

Co-researcher Dr Sarie Van Belle from the University of Texas at Austin, USA commented: "We already know that in howler monkeys, loud vocalisation plays a central role in defending their home ranges. With this study, we have learned that they return to areas where neighbouring groups had breached the home range border, to vocally announce that the area was occupied."
You can read an abstract of the paper from the journal Animal Behaviour:
Find out more about

Pictured: Group of howler monkeys feeding by Dallas Levey

Oxford Brookes University

Related Behaviour Articles from Brightsurf:

Infection by parasites disturbs flight behaviour in shoals of fish
Shoal behaviour in fish is an important strategy for them to safeguard their survival.

The influence of social norms and behaviour on energy use
People tend to conform to what others do and what others regard as right.

Brainstem neurons control both behaviour and misbehaviour
A recent study at the University of Helsinki reveals how gene control mechanisms define the identity of developing neurons in the brainstem.

Couples can show linked behaviour in terms of risk factors to prevent type 2 diabetes
New research being presented at this year's Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), held online this year, shows that when one half of a couple shows high levels of certain behaviours that prevent type 2 diabetes, such as good diet or exercise, that behaviour also tends to be high in the other half of the couple.

Addicted to the sun? Research shows it's in your genes
Sun-seeking behaviour is linked to genes involved in addiction, behavioural and personality traits and brain function, according to a study of more than 260,000 people led by King's College London researchers.

Less flocking behavior among microorganisms reduces the risk of being eaten
When algae and bacteria with different swimming gaits gather in large groups, their flocking behaviour diminishes, something that may reduce the risk of falling victim to aquatic predators.

Vibes before it bites: 10 types of defensive behaviour for the false coral snake
The False Coral Snake (Oxyrhopus rhombifer) may be capable of recognising various threat levels and demonstrates ten different defensive behaviours, seven of which are registered for the first time for the species.

Unwanted behaviour in dogs is common, with great variance between breeds
All dog breeds have unwanted behaviour, such as noise sensitivity, aggressiveness and separation anxiety, but differences in frequency between breeds are great.

The Lancet Psychiatry: Life-course-persistent antisocial behaviour may be associated with differences in brain structure
Individuals who exhibit life-course-persistent antisocial behaviour - for example, stealing, aggression and violence, bullying, lying, or repeated failure to take care of work or school responsibilities - may have thinner cortex and smaller surface area in regions of the brain previously implicated in studies of antisocial behaviour more broadly, compared to individuals without antisocial behaviour, according to an observational study of 672 participants published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.

World-first studies reveal occurrence of 'chew and spit' eating behaviour
A landmark study into the prevalence of the disordered eating behaviour known as 'chew and spit' has revealed concerning levels of such episodes among teenagers.

Read More: Behaviour News and Behaviour Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.