Terrestrial Activity in Pitheciins (Cacajao, Chiropotes, and Pithecia)


Correspondence to: Adrian A. Barnett, Roehampton University–CREEA, Holybourne Avenue, London SW15 4JD, United Kingdom.

E-mail: adrian.barnett1.biology@gmail.com


Neotropical monkeys of the genera Cacajao, Chiropotes, and Pithecia (Pitheciidae) are considered to be highly arboreal, spending most of their time feeding and traveling in the upper canopy. Until now, the use of terrestrial substrates has not been analyzed in detail in this group. Here, we review the frequency of terrestrial use among pitheciin taxa to determine the ecological and social conditions that might lead to such behavior. We collated published and unpublished data from 14 taxa in the three genera. Data were gleaned from 53 published studies (including five on multiple pitheciin genera) and personal communications of unpublished data distributed across 31 localities. Terrestrial activity was reported in 61% of Pithecia field studies (11 of 18), in 34% of Chiropotes studies (10 of 29), and 36% of Cacajao studies (4 of 11). Within Pithecia, terrestrial behavior was more frequently reported in smaller species (e.g. P. pithecia) that are vertical clingers and leapers and make extensive use of the understory than in in the larger bodied canopy dwellers of the western Amazon (e.g. P. irrorata). Terrestrial behavior in Pithecia also occurred more frequently and lasted longer than in Cacajao or Chiropotes. An apparent association was found between flooded habitats and terrestrial activity and there is evidence of the development of a “local pattern” of terrestrial use in some populations. Seasonal fruit availability also may stimulate terrestrial behavior. Individuals also descended to the ground when visiting mineral licks, escaping predators, and responding to accidents such as a dropped infant. Overall, the results of this review emphasize that terrestrial use is rare among the pitheciins in general and is usually associated with the exploitation of specific resources or habitat types. Am. J. Primatol. 74:1106-1127, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.