Navigating in small-scale space: The role of landmarks and resource monitoring in understanding saddleback tamarin travel



Recent studies of spatial memory in wild nonhuman primates indicate that foragers may rely on a combination of navigational strategies to locate nearby and distant feeding sites. When traveling in large-scale space, tamarins are reported to encode spatial information in the form of a route-based map. However, little is known concerning how wild tamarins navigate in small-scale space (between feeding sites located at a distance of ≤60 m). Therefore, we collected data on range use, diet, and the angle and distance traveled to visit sequential feeding sites in the same group of habituated Bolivian saddleback tamarins (Saguinus fuscicollis weddelli) in 2009 and 2011. For 7–8 hr a day for 54 observation days, we recorded the location of the study group at 10 min intervals using a GPS unit. We then used GIS software to map and analyze the monkeys' movements and travel paths taken between feeding sites. Our results indicate that in small-scale space the tamarins relied on multiple spatial strategies. In 31% of cases travel was route-based. In the remaining 69% of cases, however, the tamarins appeared to attend to the spatial positions of one or more near-to-site landmarks to relocate feeding sites. In doing so they approached the same feeding site from a mean of 4.5 different directions, frequently utilized different arboreal pathways, and traveled approximately 30% longer than then the straight-line distance. In addition, the monkeys' use of non-direct travel paths allowed them to monitor insect and fruit availability in areas within close proximity of currently used food patches. We conclude that the use of an integrated spatial strategy (route-based travel and attention to near-to-goal landmarks) provides tamarins with the opportunity to relocate productive feeding sites as well as monitor the availability of nearby resources in small-scale space. Am. J. Primatol. Am. J. Primatol. 76:447–459, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.