Navigation patterns in a Neotropical primate (Alouatta pigra): when cognition meets energetics

This week in the CRESIDA seminar series, the speaker is Miguel de Guinea, a doctoral student from Oxford Brookes University, who is sharing his research on navigation patterns in black howler monkeys. Come and join us on Thursday, January 17th at 4.15pm in Room G070 at Parkstead House to learn more.

Miguel de Guinea


Animal navigation requires a continuous balance of information processing and energy expenditure. In fact, navigation strategies used by primates to locate resources across heterogeneous landscapes, such as rainforests, can help determining their cognitive abilities. For instance, primate species performing flexible navigation patterns will have more sophisticated cognitive skills than primate species whose movements are constrained in time and space. Multiple primate species navigate using an established set of routes, which has been argued to decrease movement flexibility and, therefore, their foraging efficiency. However, the use of a route network may respond to energetic advantages and not cognitive limitations. Here, we aim to explore the navigation strategy of five neighbouring groups of black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) in a variant landscape (Palenque National Park, Southern Mexico). First, even though howler monkeys rely on a route network to navigate, we expect that under conditions of increased energetic demands, enhanced local knowledge and/or intragroup competition their spatial performance will be optimized. Second, howlers are expected to travel using routes that provide energetic advantages. Thus, frequently used routes may have been selected to avoid energetically costly features of the landscape and intercept a high number of potential feeding sources that can be monitored while travelling. Navigation may still be flexible regardless the use of routes while the route network itself may provide an energetic and cognitive saving mechanism for primates.

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