Howling on the edge: Mantled howler monkey (Alouatta palliata) howling behaviour and anthropogenic edge effects in a fragmented tropical rainforest in Costa Rica

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Department or Administrative Unit

Anthropology and Museum Studies

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The function of long calling is a subject of interest across animal behaviour study, particularly within primatology. Many primate species have male‐specific long‐distance calls, including platyrrhines like the folivorous howler monkey (Alouatta spp.). Howler monkeys may howl to defend resources such as feeding trees or areas of rich vegetation from other monkey groups. This study tests the ecological resource defence hypothesis for howling behaviour in the mantled howler monkey (Alouatta palliata) and investigates how anthropogenic forest fragmentation may influence howling behaviour. More specifically, this study examines how howling bout rate, duration, precursors and tree species richness, DBH, and canopy cover vary in 100 m anthropogenic edge and interior forest zones at La Suerte Biological Research Station (LSBRS), a fragmented tropical rainforest in Costa Rica. Results show that tree species richness and canopy cover are higher in forest interior at this site, suggesting that monkeys should howl at greater rates in the interior to defend access to these higher‐quality vegetation resources. Overall, our results supported the ecological resource defence hypothesis. The main howl precursor was howling from neighbouring groups. Although howling rate did not differ between forest zones, howling bouts from forest interior were longer, had a greater number of howls per bout and were preceded by different precursors than howls from anthropogenic edge zones, including more howls from neighbouring groups. Our findings provide some of the first evidence for behavioural edge effects in primate vocal communication behaviour.


This article was originally published in Ethology. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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