Measuring Microhabitat Temperature in Arboreal Primates: A Comparison of On-Animal and Stationary Approaches

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© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media New York. Arboreal primates actively navigate a complex thermal environment that exhibits spatial, daily, and seasonal temperature changes. Thus, temperature measurements from stationary recording devices in or near a forest likely do not reflect the thermal microenvironments that primates actually experience. To better understand the thermal variation primates encounter, we attached automated temperature loggers to anklets worn by free-ranging mantled howling monkeys (Alouatta palliata) to record near-animal ambient temperatures. We compared these measures to conventional, stationary temperature measurements taken from within the forest, in nearby open fields, and at a remote weather station 38.6 km from the field site. We also measured temperatures across vertical forest heights and assessed the effects of wind speed, solar radiation, rain, and vapor pressure on primate subcutaneous temperatures (collected via implanted loggers). Ambient temperatures at measurement sites commonly used by researchers differed from those experienced by animals. Moreover, these differences changed between seasons, indicating dynamic shifts in thermal environment occur through space and time. Temperatures increased with height in the forest, with statistically significant, albeit low magnitude, differences between vertical distances of one meter. Near-animal temperatures showed that monkeys selected relatively warmer microhabitats during nighttime temperature lows and relatively cooler microhabitats during the day. Lastly, the thermal variables wind speed, solar radiation, vapor pressure, and rain were statistically associated with primate subcutaneous temperatures. Our data indicate that the temperatures arboreal primates experience are not well reflected by stationary devices. Attaching automated temperature loggers to animals provides a useful tool for more directly assessing primate microhabitat use.






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Thompson, CL, SH Williams, KE Glander and CJ Vinyard (2016). Measuring Microhabitat Temperature in Arboreal Primates: A Comparison of On-Animal and Stationary Approaches. International Journal of Primatology, 37(4-5). pp. 495–517. 10.1007/s10764-016-9917-x Retrieved from

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Kenneth Earl Glander

Professor Emeritus of Evolutionary Anthropology

Primate ecology and social organization: the interaction between feeding patterns and social structure; evolutionary development of optimal group size and composition; factors affecting short and long-term demographic changes in stable groups; primate use of regenerating forests.

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