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Keywords:

  • social behavior;
  • Tarsius;
  • prosimian;
  • Sulawesi;
  • Indonesia

Abstract

While anecdotal observations of gregarious behavior in nocturnal prosimian primates are common, most anthropologists continue to refer to them as solitary, perhaps based on the assumption that the occasional social interactions observed via ad libitum methods represent random chance encounters and not patterned social interactions. In this paper, I test the null hypothesis that nocturnal encounters between spectral tarsier (Tarsius spectrum) group members, outside of the sleeping tree, are the result of chance. Three male-female pairs were radio-collared and observed over a 4-month period, using continuous focal animal sampling at the Tangkoko Nature Reserve (Sulawesi, Indonesia). Using Waser's random gas model, I found that spectral tarsiers spent more time in proximity to other group members than expected by chance, given the size of their home range and nightly path length. Adult group members spent 11% of the night in physical contact and an additional 17% of the night within a 10-m radius of one another. Spectral tarsiers were also observed to significantly increase the amount of time spent foraging when located less than 10 m from another group member. Individuals foraging in proximity to another adult group member had lower insect capture rates compared to individuals who were not foraging in proximity to another adult group member. If living in a group is costly to these tarsiers' foraging efficiency, then why don't they actively avoid one another when foraging? One situation in which it might benefit tarsiers to be gregarious is high predation pressure. Preliminary results suggest that predation pressure by snakes may be the most likely factor selecting for the tarsiers to forage in proximity. Am J Phys Anthropol 128:74-83, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.