Monday, January 3, 2011

Meet Our Monkeys: Group 4

Steffen and Casanova holding Tango
Tango ~ 10 weeks of age

Happy New Year! I would like to introduce you to Group 4 (G4). G4 is perhaps my favorite titi family. They were the first to be habituated and, in my opinion, are the most charismatic of the titi families at Yvaga Guazu and Jardin Botanico. We began studying this family when it consisted of only the mated pair, Steffen and Yuvinka, and have since recorded 4 births, a mate switch, and a death. In chronological order, Samba is the oldest offspring, followed by Salsa, Tango and Bachata. All monkeys are named after dear friends, family or activities of considerable interest, such as Latin dance!  Steffen was the original patriarch of the group and the first monkey I met at Yvaga Guazu. He was a very long, lean and regal looking monkey. He fathered, or was at least caretaker of, the three oldest offspring. The autumn (spring in Bolivia) of 2009 proved to be quite traumatic for the family as Steffen was ousted by Casanova, a younger male from the neighboring group (G3). The transition was not easy and both males fought vigorously to maintain or obtain paired status. Both males were also keen to care for the newly born Tango. In titi monkeys, males are the primary caregivers, carrying and playing with the offspring roughly 90% of the time. Casanova and Steffen would take turns carrying the infant, sometimes even jointly holding it while in resting position. While seemingly cooperative, the behavior likely reflects confusion on part of the males. The naughty or wise, depending on one’s perspective, Yuvinka had likely mated with both males leading to joint investment. Tango’s paternity is not yet known. This is being sorted out by Dr. Alison French Doubleday in her genetic lab at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Yuvinka’s preference for the younger Casanova was obvious as she repeatedly physically acted Steffen, driving him first to the boundary of the group and eventually out in December of 2009. Steffen has not been seen since. He is likely deceased, as certainly we would have spotted him in the small forest fragment of Yvaga Guazu. We like to think, however, that he has retired to a quiet spot in the back of the chicken farm (more on this later).
Group 4 suffered another lose in the autumn of 2010 as Samba, Yuvinka’s oldest offspring, was killed in a dispute over mangos. The mango patch is a highly contested area for all the monkey residents of Yvaga Guazu and the neighboring chicken farm. RIP Samba. We are certainly saddened by the loss.

With death there is life and as such, the autumn of 2010 brought a new member to G4, Bachata. Bachata is doing well and is being followed regularly by Sharon Schillewaert, a very devoted Belgian research assistant. Sharon has been away over the holidays but will return soon to update us on the happenings of this group. Please stay tuned! Pics of Yuvinka and Bachata coming soon.

Titi Factoids:
Titi monkeys (Genus Callicebus) are monogamous, considered to be perhaps the most monogamous of all primate species.  A group or family consists of the mated pair (adult male/female or mom and dad) plus offspring. Observations in 2009, however, revealed that extra-pair copulations (adultery, cuckoldry to some) do occur in this genus. Their pair bond still remains one of the strongest in the animal kingdom.

DISCLAIMER: The behavior of these monkeys is by no means a reflection of the behavior of their namesakes. All monkeys are named after people for whom we show considerable respect and affection J

RIP Samba

Salsa ~ 2 years of age

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