Technical note: Tree truthing: How accurate are substrate estimates in primate field studies?

Authors

  • Michelle Bezanson,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA 95050
    • Department of Anthropology, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA 95050
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  • Sean M. Watts,

    1. Department of Anthropology, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA 95050
    2. AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow, Assigned to the National Science Foundation, Directorate of Biological Sciences, Division of Environmental Biology, Arlington, VA 22230
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  • Matthew J. Jobin

    1. Department of Anthropology, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA 95050
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  • Disclaimer: Any opinion, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material; are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Abstract

Field studies of primate positional behavior typically rely on ground-level estimates of substrate size, angle, and canopy location. These estimates potentially influence the identification of positional modes by the observer recording behaviors. In this study we aim to test ground-level estimates against direct measurements of support angles, diameters, and canopy heights in trees at La Suerte Biological Research Station in Costa Rica. After reviewing methods that have been used by past researchers, we provide data collected within trees that are compared to estimates obtained from the ground. We climbed five trees and measured 20 supports. Four observers collected measurements of each support from different locations on the ground. Diameter estimates varied from the direct tree measures by 0–28 cm (Mean: 5.44 ± 4.55). Substrate angles varied by 1–55° (Mean: 14.76 ± 14.02). Height in the tree was best estimated using a clinometer as estimates with a two-meter reference placed by the tree varied by 3–11 meters (Mean: 5.31 ± 2.44). We determined that the best support size estimates were those generated relative to the size of the focal animal and divided into broader categories. Support angles were best estimated in 5° increments and then checked using a Haglöf clinometer in combination with a laser pointer. We conclude that three major factors should be addressed when estimating support features: observer error (e.g., experience and distance from the target), support deformity, and how support size and angle influence the positional mode selected by a primate individual. individual. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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