Abstract # 106:

Scheduled for Friday, August 19, 2005 11:45 AM-12:00 PM: Session 7 (Parliament Room) Oral Presentation

Myrmecophagy by neotropical primates

A. Di Fiore1,2, D. Hurst3 and G. Carrillo4
1Center for the Study of Human Origins, Department of Anthropology, New York University, 25 Waverly Place, Room 802/803, New York, NY 10003, USA, 2New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, 3SUNY Stony Brook, 4Universidad Central del Ecuador
     Ants comprise a major part of the animal community in tropical forests. In the neotropics, for example, ants constitute the bulk of the biomass of canopy invertebrates. Many species of mammals feed on ants at least occasionally, and among wild primates ant feeding is relatively common, but the behavior is seldom discussed in the literature. In fact, significant attention has been paid to ant eating only for chimpanzees, gorillas, and several cercopithecines. Nonetheless, at least nine genera of New World monkeys reportedly consume ants in the wild. During long-term studies of the foraging ecology of several neotropical primates in Yasun√≠ National Park, Ecuador, we recorded multiple species, woolly monkeys (Lagothrix poeppigii), sakis (Pithecia aequatorialis), and titis (Callicebus discolor), feeding on ants. Ant feeding episodes could be prolonged events, sometimes lasting more than an hour, and they often involved multiple group members. For all three taxa, ant feeding focused on swarms of army ants (Ecitoninae), which animals would descend close to the forest floor to consume. Additionally, woolly monkeys fed on a number of other ant species, and they commonly used destructive foraging techniques to obtain them. Other social insects (e.g., termites) were seldom observed to be eaten. The consumption of ants by this diverse group of neotropical primates suggests that further research should be directed toward understanding patterns of primate myrmecophagy. Supported by the L.S.B Leakey and Wenner-Gren Foundations.