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Factors influencing terrestriality in primates of the Americas and Madagascar

Eppley, Timothy M., Hoeks, Selwyn, Chapman, Colin A., Ganzhorn, Jörg U., Hall, Katie, Owen, Megan A., Adams, Dara B., Allgas, Néstor, Amato, Katherine R., Andriamahaihavana, McAntonin, and others. (2022) Factors influencing terrestriality in primates of the Americas and Madagascar. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119 (42). ISSN 1091-6490. (doi:10.1073/pnas.2121105119) (KAR id:103072)


Among mammals, the order Primates is exceptional in having a high taxonomic richness in which the taxa are arboreal, semiterrestrial, or terrestrial. Although habitual terrestriality is pervasive among the apes and African and Asian monkeys (catarrhines), it is largely absent among monkeys of the Americas (platyrrhines), as well as galagos, lemurs, and lorises (strepsirrhines), which are mostly arboreal. Numerous ecological drivers and species-specific factors are suggested to set the conditions for an evolutionary shift from arboreality to terrestriality, and current environmental conditions may provide analogous scenarios to those transitional periods. Therefore, we investigated predominantly arboreal, diurnal primate genera from the Americas and Madagascar that lack fully terrestrial taxa, to determine whether ecological drivers (habitat canopy cover, predation risk, maximum temperature, precipitation, primate species richness, human population density, and distance to roads) or species-specific traits (body mass, group size, and degree of frugivory) associate with increased terrestriality. We collated 150,961 observation hours across 2,227 months from 47 species at 20 sites in Madagascar and 48 sites in the Americas. Multiple factors were associated with ground use in these otherwise arboreal species, including increased temperature, a decrease in canopy cover, a dietary shift away from frugivory, and larger group size. These factors mostly explain intraspecific differences in terrestriality. As humanity modifies habitats and causes climate change, our results suggest that species already inhabiting hot, sparsely canopied sites, and exhibiting more generalized diets, are more likely to shift toward greater ground use.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1073/pnas.2121105119
Uncontrolled keywords: Multidisciplinary
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
Funders: University of Kent (
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2023 15:08 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 15:08 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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