• fission–fusion;
  • ranging;
  • sex differences;
  • behavioral flexibility


Spider monkeys (Ateles sp.) live in a flexible fission–fusion social system in which members of a social group are not in constant association, but instead form smaller subgroups of varying size and composition. Patterns of range use in spider monkeys have been described as sex-segregated, with males and females often ranging separately, females utilizing core areas that encompass only a fraction of the entire community range, and males using much larger portions of the community range that overlap considerably with the core areas of females and other males. Males are also reported to use the boundary areas of community home ranges more often than females. Spider monkeys thus seem to parallel the “male-bonded” patterns of ranging and association found among some groups of chimpanzees. Over several years of research on one group of spider monkeys (Ateles belzebuth) in Yasuní National Park, Ecuador, we characterized the ranging patterns of adult males and females and evaluated the extent to which they conform to previously reported patterns. In contrast to ranging patterns seen at several other spider monkey sites, the ranges of our study females overlapped considerably, with little evidence of exclusive use of particular areas by individual monkeys. Average male and female home range size was comparable, and males and females were similar in their use of boundary areas. These ranging patterns are similar to those of “bisexually bonded” groups of chimpanzees in West Africa. We suggest that the less sex-segregated ranging patterns seen in this particular group of spider monkeys may be owing to a history of human disturbance in the area and to lower genetic relatedness between males, highlighting the potential for flexibility some aspects of the spider monkeys' fission–fusion social system. Am. J. Primatol. 72:129–141, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.