Social factors influencing natal dispersal in male white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus)


  • Contract grant sponsors: Tulane University's Research Enhancement Fund; Department of Anthropology; Stone Center for Latin American Studies; Newcomb Institute; NSERC; Canada Research Chairs Program.

Correspondence to: Katharine M. Jack, Department of Anthropology, 101 Dinwiddie Hall, Tulane University, 6823 St. Charles Avenue New Orleans, LA 70118


White-faced capuchin males disperse from their natal group at around 4.5 years of age, but there is much variation in dispersal timing: our youngest confirmed disperser was 19 months and the oldest 11 years old. In this study, we investigate possible factors influencing dispersal decisions in this species. Between 1983 and 2010, 64 males were born into three study groups in Santa Rosa National Park, Area de Conservación Guanacaste, and Costa Rica. As of August 2010, 21 died or were presumed dead (<14 months), 13 remained natal residents, and 30 were presumed dispersers. We used backward logistic regression to identify proximate factors that predict the occurrence of male natal dispersal. The occurrence of a takeover (significant positive association) and group size (nonsignificant negative association) were included in the model. Male age, number of maternal brothers, and number of adult males were not significant predictors of natal dispersal. The resultant model correctly classified 97% of dispersed and 89% of resident natal males, for an overall success rate of 95%. The occurrence of a group takeover was the strongest predictor of male dispersal, with natal males being 18.7 times more likely to disperse in the context of a group takeover than during peaceful times. A linear regression model showed that the tenure length of a male's probable father influences the age of natal dispersal, explaining 15% of the observed variation in age. However, when our oldest disperser was removed (an outlier) this effect disappeared. Collectively, these results indicate that group instability, as evidenced by the occurrence of a takeover, shorter tenure length of a natal male's father, and smaller group size, triggers natal dispersal in this species while the converse leads to a delay. These data add to our growing evidence of the enormous impact that takeovers have on the behavioral ecology of this species. Am. J. Primatol. 74:359–365, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.