Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Our newest titi family, G2

Video credit: Daniel Krumberg

Vanessito and juvenile, Luna
I would like to introduce everyone to our newest habituated family of titi monkeys, G2. We’ve actually know its patriarch, Vanessito, since he was a weanling.  He is one of the offspring of the neighboring G3 and now resides in the territory adjacent to his brother, Casanova. He is dramatic in color, with striking bright red/orange pelage and a pronounced black eye-stripe, and personality and was thus named after my long time project coordinator and dear friend, Vanessa Sandoval.  His partner/mate is new to our study animals and I’ve named her Isabel after Isabel Allende because of her fiery personality. Isabel is largely grey with a reddish orange crown and black eye mask. Perhaps her most unique feature, however, is her pale/fleshy colored perineal region. Normally it is black in titi monkeys. Dirty old lady?! To some, perhaps, but any distinguishing feature will do when trying to identify seemingly, at least initially, indistinguishable monkeys.

Tight coordination of daily activities (traveling, feeding, resting, vocalizing, etc.) is a hallmark feature of this genus. The more coordinated the pair the more successful at defending/maintaining a territory and perhaps even at rearing offspring. This takes practice though. New pairs are certainly not as good at it as established ones. The awkwardness and tension between Vanessito and Isabel was apparent this breeding season as they struggled to establish their pair bond and position in the wider community of titis. Vanessito appeared to be investing more in pair bond maintenance, more frequently grooming and appeasing the somewhat reluctant and jittery Isabel. This is expected though as it was the breeding season and Vanessito needed to demonstrate his willingness to invest in and commit to not only in his mate but the pair bond itself and potential offspring. If you’re a female titi or human for that matter, it pays to be choosy!

I spent most of my visit recording their loud calls (duets). Duets being widely defined as coordinated vocal interactions between a mated pair. Titi duets are rather complex and one would expect greater coordination with greater pair familiarity. During my stay, mid-February to mid-March (early breeding season), the pair called much less frequently than neighboring groups and tended to engage largely in type 2 duet bouts, a less threatening  and easier to produce signal (see above). I’ve yet to analyze the recordings, but my bet is they are less synchronized than those of established pairs, those together at least one reproductive season.

Vanessito took on not only a mate this year but also apparently adopted her subadult and juvenile offspring. This is awaiting genetic confirmation though. Kimber, my research assistant assigned to follow this group, named the sub-adult Sol (Spanish for sun) and juvenile Luna (Spanish for moon). Lovely names I think. She is now much more acquainted with this group than I am and I'm sure she’ll give us an update, with nice photos of both Sol and Luna, as soon as she returns from her travels. Kimber has only recently finished her work on the titi project and is now traveling Bolivia and Peru. Hope you're having a great time!

Isabel enjoying a mouth-full of palm fruit