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Dispersal patterns among three species of squirrel monkeys (Saimiri oerstedii, S. boliviensis and S. sciureus): I. Divergent costs and benefits

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Current theory frames animal dispersal as an outcome of potentially complex, multi-factorial interactions and tradeoffs that may vary across individual, sex, rank, age, social group, species, habitat and time. Empirical data relevant to a broad range of the potential costs and benefits incurred by dispersal are, not surprisingly, limited for many mammals and other vertebrates. Here we present the first report on dispersal in a wild population of the Neotropical primate Saimiri sciureus (Primates: Cebidae). Long-term observations (1998-2001) of this squirrel monkey represent part of a broader study of the forest community at Raleighvallen in the Central Suriname Nature Reserve. These new dispersal records for S. sciureus are combined with comparable information from congeners, S. boliviensis in Peru and S. oerstedii in Costa Rica. The resulting three-way compilation includes the ecological, social and mating context for each congener. Further enhancing the inherent phylogenetic control of a within-genus comparison, these data were collected with the explicit intent of joint analyses, and the study sites for these small, arboreal social mammals are three of the least disturbed extant Neotropical forests in the historical record.Saimiri appears to merit description as the genus with the most diverse set of species dispersal patterns yet documented among mammals. (1) S. sciureus of both sexes undertake dispersal on several to many occasions during their lifetime. Females and immatures commonly transfer between troops. The large portion of male S. sciureus spend their adult years as solitary or peripheral males. Few males attain secure residence in a mixed-sex troop, a prerequisite for mating success. (2) On attainment of sexual maturity, male S. boliviensis emigrate with their same-age cohort, first joining all-male bands, and eventually entering mixed-sex troops with this same natal male birth cohort. Natal female S. boliviensis are philopatric and form cohesive matrilines. Within-troop competition determines each matriline's priority of access to fruit resources. (3) In contrast to both S. sciureus and S. boliviensis, S. oerstedii males are philopatric and maintain tight affiliation with same age-cohort males. Natal female S. oerstedii emigrate as juveniles prior to their first mating season, and may undertake secondary dispersals in subsequent years.Squirrel monkeys represent a genus with realistic prospects of discriminating the costs and benefits germane to species-typical dispersal strategies. To this end, we collate 30 different causal parameters commonly invoked as influencing mammalian dispersal patterns. Each of these factors is assessed separately for possible influence on the empirically determined sex and species differences. We predict the possible consequences of direct and inclusive fitness interactions on dispersal outcomes for future testing with genetic data. Components of Saimiri selective regimes particularly salient to female dispersal strategies include food competition, foraging benefits provided by kin and inbreeding avoidance. Dispersal patterns among male Saimiri are constrained by mate competition and the consequent reproductive skew, in addition to enhanced predation risk during dispersal forays. Little evidence, however, suggests that relative to familiar landscapes, exploitation of novel ranging areas substantially increases foraging costs or predation risk for dispersing squirrel monkeys of either sex. We then compare the species-specific dispersal regimes initially identified with the univariate array of proposed costs and benefits to the tradeoffs predicted by a selection of contemporary multivariate dispersal models. The multivariate models did not, however, improve substantially upon the collective insights on cost-benefit regimes achieved with the univariate hypotheses. Conclusions regarding the selective regimes structuring dispersal among squirrel monkeys are best considered provisional until genetic data become available allowing tests of our inferences concerning kin relationships and population structure of the study populations.


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