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Birth seasonality and offspring production in threatened neotropical primates related to climate


Ruscena Wiederholt, tel. +301 497 5873, fax +301 497 5784, e-mail:


Given the threatened status of many primate species, the impacts of global warming on primate reproduction and, consequently, population growth should be of concern. We examined relations between climatic variability and birth seasonality, offspring production, and infant sex ratios in two ateline primates, northern muriquis, and woolly monkeys. In both species, the annual birth season was delayed by dry conditions and El Niño years, and delayed birth seasons were linked to lower birth rates. Additionally, increased mean annual temperatures were associated with lower birth rates for northern muriquis. Offspring sex ratios varied with climatic conditions in both species, but in different ways: directly in woolly monkeys and indirectly in northern muriquis. Woolly monkeys displayed an increase in the proportion of males among offspring in association with El Niño events, whereas in northern muriquis, increases in the proportion of males among offspring were associated with delayed onset of the birth season, which itself was related, although weakly, to warm, dry conditions. These results illustrate that global warming, increased drought frequency, and changes in the frequency of El Niño events could limit primate reproductive output, threatening the persistence and recovery of ateline primate populations.

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