Crying tapir: The functionality of errors and accuracy in predator recognition in two neotropical high-canopy primates

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Abstract

Predation is often considered to be a prime driver in primate evolution, but, as predation is rarely observed in nature, little is known of primate antipredator responses. Time-limited primates should be highly discerning when responding to predators, since time spent in vigilance and avoidance behaviour may supplant other activities. We present data from two independent studies describing and quantifying the frequency, nature and duration of predator-linked behaviours in 2 high-canopy primates, Ateles belzebuth and Cacajao ouakary. We introduce the concept of 'pseudopredators' (harmless species whose appearance is sufficiently similar to that of predators to elicit antipredator responses) and predict that changes in behaviour should increase with risk posed by a perceived predator. We studied primate group encounters with non-primate vertebrates across 14 (Ateles) and 19 (Cacajao) months in 2 undisturbed Amazonian forests. Although preliminary, data on both primates revealed that they distinguished the potential predation capacities of other species, as predicted. They appeared to differentiate predators from non-predators and distinguished when potential predators were not an immediate threat, although they reacted erroneously to pseudopredators, on average in about 20% of the responses given toward other vertebrates. Reacting to pseudopredators would be interesting since, in predation, one error can be fatal to the prey.

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Mourthé, Í., & Barnett, A. A. (2014). Crying tapir: The functionality of errors and accuracy in predator recognition in two neotropical high-canopy primates. Folia Primatologica, 85(6), 379–398. https://doi.org/10.1159/000371634

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