A demographic history of a population of howler monkeys (Alouatta palliata) living in a fragmented landscape in Mexico
journal contributionposted on 2023-07-26, 14:09 authored by Jurgi Cristóbal Azkarate, Jacob C. Dunn, Cristina Domingo Balcells, Joaquim Veà Baró
Long-term field studies are critical for our understanding of animal life history and the processes driving changes in demography. Here, we present long-term demographic data for the northernmost population of mantled howler monkeys (Alouatta palliata) residing in a highly anthropogenically fragmented landscape in Los Tuxtlas, Mexico. We carried out 454 monthly group visits to 10 groups of mantled howler monkeys between 2000 and 2011. The population remained relatively stable over the 11-year study period, with an overall increase in the total number of individuals. Birth rates and inter-birth intervals were comparable to those of howler monkeys at non-fragmented sites, suggesting that living in a fragmented landscape did not affect the reproductive output of our study population. Moreover, despite the landscape, dispersal events were commonplace, including many secondary dispersals (individuals emigrating from groups that they had previously immigrated into). Finally, we found a marked effect of seasonality on the dynamics of our study population. In particular, the period of lowest temperatures and resource scarcity between November and March was associated with higher mortality and reproductive inhibition, while the period of resource abundance between April and May was associated with the majority of conceptions and weaning of offspring. This, in turn, could be influencing dispersal patterns in our study area, as male howler monkeys seem to time some of their immigrations into new groups to coincide with the start of the period of higher fertility, while females preferentially joined new groups several months before the onset of this period. These data have important implications for the conservation and management of howler monkeys in fragmented landscapes, as well as for our understanding of the effect of seasonality over howler monkey dispersal, reproduction and survival.
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