• Ateles;
  • spider monkey;
  • social organization;
  • chimpanzee


Results of a long-term field study on the ecology and social organization of two groups of black spider monkeys (Ateles paniscus chamek) in Peru are reported. Demography, ranging patterns, and activity budgets provide insight into some of the proximate determinants of fission-fusion social organization in this species and illustrate the different strategies used by males and females to gain access to critical resources. Longitudinal data on known individuals provide evidence for male natal philopatry and female emigration at sexual maturity in this population. Interbirth intervals are long (mean = 34.5 months) in comparison with most other primate species, and 5 of 15 infants seen within a few days of birth died or disappeared before they were a year old. Home ranges are large (150–250 ha) and fairly discrete; overlap with neighboring groups is on the order of 10–15%. Males and females differed substantially in their ranging patterns; females, particularly those with infants, restricted much of their ranging to a “core area” 20–33% the size of the total group range, whereas males ranged more evenly over the entire area occupied by the group. Daily path length varied over almost an order of magnitude from 465 m to 4,070 m, with a mean of 1977 m. Males spent more time traveling and less time feeding than most females. These results are compared with those obtained in previous studies of Ateles and with similar data from other primate species to assess their implications for the evolution of fission-fusion sociality in spider monkeys. The ecological factors responsible for the evolution of very similar social organizations in spider monkeys and chimpanzees are discussed.