Primate of the Week: Red Howler Monkeys

Alouatta seniculus

Taxonomy

  • Suborder: Haplorrhini
  • Infraorder: Simiiformes
  • Family: Atelidae
  • Subfamily: Alouattinae

Colombian-red-howler-monkey-group-calling

Red howler monkeys are new world monkeys and part of the Atelinae subfamily (Di Fiore & Campbell, 2007). These species tend to sexual dimorphism but this also depends on the population being studied. Males tend to weight 6 to 7.6 kg while females tend to weight 4.5 to 6.3 kg (Thorington et al., 1979, Camacho and Defler, 1985; Smith and Jungers, 1997; Rodríguez, & Boher, 1998). They like most other new world monkeys have a prehensile tail. Their tails tend to be longer than their head and body length (Thorington et al., 1979; Bergeson, 1993; Richard-Hansen et al., 1999). Red howler monkeys has the name suggest are generally red but vary to red orange or golden orange (Hill, 1962; Thorington et al., 1979).

Colombian-red-howler-monkey-eating-leaves-on-tree-top

Like most others within the Aloutta genus have a large hyoid bone which functions as a way to deepen pitch, resonate and amplify their vocalizations (Thorington et al., 1979; Crockett and Eisenberg, 1988). Red howler monkeys however contain the largest hyoid and exhibit sexual dimorphism. Female hyoid bone volume is only 12.5 ml while males measure 69.5 ml (Sekulic, 1981; Crocket and Eisenberg, 1987).

Colombian-red-howler-monkeys-at-clay-lick

Red howler monkeys can be found in the tropics of South America, including Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela (Napier, 1976; Wallace et al., 1998). Due to their large ranger they are found in several different habitats including tropical rain forests, humid rain forests, dry rainforest, high terra firm forests, southern rainforest, lower montane forest, cloud forests, swamp forests, semi decidious forest and deciduous season forests and swamp woodlands (Hernández-Camacho and Cooper, 1976; Rudran, 1979; Braza et al., 1981; Gaulin and Gaulin, 1982; Cordero and Boher, 1988; Yoneda, 1990; Wallaxce et al., 1998; Youlatos, 1998; Palacios and Rodriguez, 2001; Lehman, 2004).

Male-Colombian-red-howler-monkey-on-branch-food-on-lips

Red howlers monkeys diet also differs quite a lot depending on where they are located. For the most part they mainly consume fruits, fruit pulp and leaves. But will also consume roots, flowers, epiphytes, seeds, berries, drupes, petioles, leaf buds, bark, wood, vine, and other plant materials (Braza et al., 1983; Soini, 1986; Neves and Rylands, 1991; Julliot, 1996, Palacios and Rodriguez, 2001; Simmen et al., 2001). Due to the seasonality of the tropics and limits on fruit availability for some part of the year howler monkeys are folivorous while for other parts of the years they are frugivorious (Soini, 1986; Izawa and Lozano, 1990; Crocket, 1998; Stevenson et al., 2000; Simmen et al., 2001).

Colombian-red-howler-monkey-male-portrait

Red howler monkeys are diurnal and vary in activity depending on if it is the dry season or wet season (Braza et al., 1981). Braza (1981) found resting occurred slight more during the rainy season than in the dry season. Gaulin and Gaulin (1982) suggested this was do to the low nutritional diet from being folivorious and the difficulties in digestion with this type of diet.

Colombian-red-howler-monkey-eating-leaves-whilst-hanging

Raptors such as harpy eagles are their main predators (Eason, 1989; Peres, 1990; Sherman, 1991).

Colombian-red-howler-monkey-mouth-open

Group sizes varies greatly with semi deciduous habitats containing larger groups and evergreen areas contain smaller troops (Crockett and Eisenberg, 1988). Rudran and Fernandez-Duque (2003) found troop sized averaged from 6 to 10.5 individuals and would vary from 4 to 18 individuals.

Colombian-red-howler-monkey-resting-on-branch

Groups tend to be uni male or multimale. Multi male groups tend to be larger. Generally there are more females than males. (Soini, 1986; Crockett and Eisenberg, 1988; Rudran and Fernandez- Duque, 2003). Generally there are only four breeding females per group (Crockett, 1996). All adult males are dominant over females (Neville et al., 1988).

Colombian-red-howler-monkey-stretching-down-to-grasp-leaves

Multi male groups generally have one dominant male who reproduces with all the females (Kimura, 1997; Pope, 1990; Crockett, 2003). These males tend to be larger than the other males (Kimura, 1997).

Captive-Colombian-red-howler-monkey-howling

Both male and female red howler monkeys emigrate from their natal troops (Crocket, 1996). Once a female begins to breed in a group then she will remain in the group for the rest of her life (Pope, 2000). Males will join existing troops via challenging resident males. However they generally challenge this male with another male. This other male tends to be a relative (Crockett, 1984; Pope, 1990; Crockett and Pope, 1993; Agoramoorthy and Rudran, 1993).

Colombian-red-howler-monkey-in-tree.jpg

Solitary females often have difficulty joining groups, group females often prevent solitary females from entering the group and thus females are more likely to be injured (Rudran, 1979; Sekulic, 1982; Crockett and Pope, 1988). Females often have to travel farther in order to establish new groups while males will often join troops adjacent to their natal troop (Pope, 2000). Females will emigrate from their natal groups at 2 to 4 years of age, while males emigrate 4 to 6 years of age (Crocket and Pope, 1993).

Colombian-red-howler-monkey-hanging-using-prehensile-tail-whilst-feeding.jpg

Vocalizations are incredibly important for howler monkeys and are often common in the early monring in order to stop other howler monkeys from approaching the troop during the day (Sekulic, 1982).

Colombian-red-howler-monkey-group-calling

Red howler monkeys will often exhibit either a a multi male or single male polygynous breeding systems (Crockett and Rudran, 1987; Pope, 1990; Kumura, 1992). However females will also mate with several males in order to avoid infanticide as a result of male status changes within the group (Crockett, 2003).

Male-Colombian-red-howler-monkey-on-branch-food-on-lips

Copulatory behaviors include tongue flicking, genital sniffing and inspection of genitals, and body licking (Izawa and Lozano, 1989; Agoramoorthy and Hsu, 1999). Females will first give birth approximately 4 to 5 years of age while males will not father offspring until they 7 years of age (Crockett and Eisenberg, 1987; Crocket, 1998). Gestation is approximately 191 days (Crockett and Sekulic, 1982; Crockett and Rudran, 1987).

Colombian-red-howler-monkey-mouth-open

Red howler monkeys also exhibit a large amount of infanticide this generally occurs during invasions of a group by external males and during dominance status/breeding status changes of the resident males (Crockett and Sekulic, 1984; Agoramoorthy and Rudran, 1995).

References/Read more

Agoramoorthy G, Rudran R. 1992. Adoption in free-ranging red howler monkeys, Alouatta seniculus of Venezuela. Primates 33(4):551-5.

Agoramoorthy G. 1997. Apparent feeding associations between Alouatta seniculus and Odocoileus virginianus in Venezuela. Mammalia 61(2):271-3.

Agoramoorthy G, Hsu MJ. 1999. Extragroup copulation among wild red howler monkeys in Venezuela. Folia Primatol 71(3):147-51.

Agoramoorthy G, Rudran R. 1995. Infanticide by adult and subadult males in free-ranging red howler monkeys, Alouatta seniculus, in Venezuela. Ethology 99(1):75-88.

Agoramoorthy G, Rudran R. 1993. Male dispersal among free-ranging red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus) in Venezuela. Folia Primatol 61(2):92-6.

Braza F, Alvarez F, Azcarate T. 1981. Behaviour of the red howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus) in the llanos of Venezuela. Primates 22(4):459-73.

Braza F, Alvarez F, Azcarate T. 1983. Feeding habits of the red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus) in the llanos of Venezuela. Mammalia 47(2):205-14.

Camacho JH, Defler TR. 1985. Some aspects of the conservation of non-human primates in Colombia. Prim Conserv 6:42-50.

Cordero Rodríguez GAC, Boher BS. 1988. Notes on the biology of Cebus nigrivittatus and Alouatta seniculus in northern Venezuela. Prim Conserv 9:61-5.

Crockett CM, Pope TR. 1993. Consequences of sex differences in dispersal for juvenile red howler monkeys. In: Pereira ME, Fairbanks LA, editors. Juvenile primates: life history, development, and behavior. New York: Oxford U Pr. p104-18.

Crockett CM. 1998a. Conservation biology of the genus Alouatta. Int J Primatol 19(3): 549-78.

Crockett CM. 1984. Emigration by female red howler monkeys and the case for female competition. In: Small, MF, editor. Female primates: studies by women primatologists. New York: Alan R. Liss. p159-73.

Crockett CM. 1998b. Family feuds. In: Ciochon RL, Nisbett RA, editors. The primate anthology: essays on primate behavior, ecology, and conservation from Natural History. Upper Saddle River(NJ): Prentice Hall. p28-35.

Crockett CM, Sekulic R. 1982. Gestation length in red howler monkeys. Am J Primatol 3(1-4):291-4.

Crockett CM, Eisenberg JF. 1987. Howlers: variations in group size and demography. In: Smuts BB, Cheney DL, Seyfarth RM, Wrangham RW, Struhsaker TT, editors. Primate societies. Chicago: U Chicago Pr. p54-68.

Crockett CM, Sekulic R. 1984. Infanticide in red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus). In: Hausfater G, Hrdy SB, editors. Infanticide: comparative and evolutionary perspectives. New York: Aldine Pub Co. p173-91.

Crockett CM, Janson CH. 2000. Infanticide in red howlers: female group size, male membership, and a possible link to folivory. In: van Schaik CP, Janson CH, editors. Infanticide by males and its implications. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge U Pr. p75-98.

Crockett CM, Pope T. 1988. Inferring patterns of aggression from red howler monkey injuries. Am J Primatol 15(4):289-308.

Crockett CM, Rudran R. 1987a. Red howler monkey birth data I: seasonal variation. Am J Primatol 13(4):347-68.

Crockett CM, Rudran R. 1987b. Red howler monkey birth data II: interannual, habitat, and sex comparisons. Am J Primatol 13(4):369-84.

Crockett CM. 2003. Re-evaluating the sexual selection hypothesis for infanticide by Alouatta males. In: Jones CB, editor. Sexual selection and reproductive competition in primates: new perspectives and directions. Norman(OK): Am Soc Primatol. p327-65.

Crockett CM. 1996. The relation between red howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus) troop size and population growth in two habitats. In: Norconk MA, Rosenberger AL, Garber PA, editors. Adaptive radiations of neotropical primates. New York: Plenum Pr. p489-510.

Defler TR, Defler SB. 1996. Diet of a group of Lagothrix lagothricha lagothricha in southeastern Colombia. Intl J Primatol 17(2):161-90.

Defler TR. 2004. Primates of Colombia. Bogotá: Cons Intl. 550 p.

Di Fiore A, Campbell CJ. 2007. The Atelines: variation in ecology, behavior, and social organization. In: Campbell CJ, Fuentes A, MacKinnon KC, Panger M, Bearder SK, editors. Primates in perspective. New York: Oxford U Pr. p 155-85.

Hernández-Camacho J, Cooper RW. 1976. The nonhuman primates of Colombia. In: Thorington Jr RW, Heltne PG, editors. Neotropical primates: field studies and conservation. Washington, D.C.: Nat Acad Sci p35-69.

Iwanaga S, Ferrari SF. 2002. Geographic distribution of red howlers (Alouatta seniculus) in southwestern Brazilian Amazonia, with notes on Alouatta caraya. Intl J Primatol 23(6):1245-56.

Izawa K. 1989. The adoption of an infant observed in a wild group of red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus). Field Stud New World Monk, La Macarena, Colombia 2:33-6.

Izawa K, Lozano MH. 1990a. Frequency of soil-eating by a group of wild howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus) in La Macarena, Colombia. Field Stud New World Monk, La Macarena, Colombia 4:47-56.

Izawa K, Lozano MH. 1990b. River crossing by a wild howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus). Field Stud New World Monk, La Macarena, Colombia 3:29-33.

Izawa K, Lozano MH. 1992. Social changes within a group of red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus), IV. Field Stud New World Monk, La Macarena, Colombia 7:15-27.

Izawa K. 1997a. Social changes within a group of red howler monkeys, VI. Field Stud Fauna Flora, La Macarena, Colombia 11:19-34.

Izawa K, Lozano MH. 1989. Social changes within a group and reproduction of wild howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus) in Colombia. Field Stud New World Monk, La Macarena, Colombia 2:1-6.

Izawa K. 1997b. Stability of the home range of red howler monkeys. Field Stud Fauna Flora, La Macarena, Colombia 11:41-6.

Julliot C. 1992. Diet diversity and habitat of howler monkeys. In:Thierry B, Anderson JR, Roeder JJ, Herrenschmidt N, editors. Current Primatology, Volume I: ecology and evolution. Strasbourg (FR): Univ Louis Pasteur. p67-78.

Julliot C, Sabatier D. 1993. Diet of the red howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus) in French Guiana. Intl J Primatol 14(4):527-50.

Julliot C. 1996a. Fruit choice by red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus) in a tropical rain forest. Am J Primatol 40(3):261-82.

Julliot C. 1996b. Seed dispersal by red howling monkeys (Alouatta seniculus) in the tropical rain forest of French Guiana. Intl J Primatol 17(2):239-258.

Kimura K. 1992. Demographic approach to the social group of wild red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus). Field Stud New World Monk, La Macarena, Colombia 7:29-34.

Kimura K. 1999. Home ranges and inter-group relations among the wild red howler monkeys. Field Stud Fauna Flora, La Macarena, Colombia. 13:19-24.

Kimura K. 1997. Males’ life history and their social relations of wild red howler monkeys. Field Stud Fauna Flora, La Macarena, Colombia 11:35-40.

Lehman SM. 2004. Biogeography of the primates of Guyana: effects of habitat use and diet on geographic distribution. Intl J Primatol 25(6):1225-42

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Palacios E, Rodriguez A. 2001. Ranging pattern and use of space in a group of red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus) in a southeastern Colombian rainforest. Am J Primatol 55(4):233-51.

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Peres CA. 1997a. Effects of habitat quality and hunting pressure on arboreal folivore densities in neotropical forests: a case study of howler monkeys (Alouatta spp.). Folia Primatol 68(3-5):199-222.

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Pope TR. 1990. The reproductive consequences of male cooperation in the red howler monkey: paternity exclusion in multi-male and single-male troops using genetic markers. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 27(6):439-46.

Richard-Hansen C, Vié J-C, Vidal N, Kéravec J. 1999. Body measurements on 40 species of mammals from French Guiana. J Zool Lond 247(4):419-28.

Richard-Hansen, Bello N, Vié J-C. 1998. Tool use by a red howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus) towards a two-toed sloth (Choloepus didactylus). Primates 39(4):545-8.

Rudran R, Fernandez-Duque E. 2003. Demographic changes over thirty years in a red howler population in Venezuela. Intl J Primatol 24(5):925-47.

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Sekulic R. 1983a. The effect of female call on male howling in red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus). Intl J Primatol 4(3):291-305.

Sekulic R. 1983b. Spatial relationships between recent mothers and other troop members in red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus). Primates 24(4): 475-85.

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Youlatos D, Gasc JP. 1994. A preliminary study of head-first descent of lianas in the red howler monkey, Alouatta seniculus, in a primary rain forest in French Guiana. In: Thierry B, Anderson JR, Roeder JJ, Herrenschmidt N, editors. Current Primatology, Vol. I: ecology and evolution. Strasbourg (FR): Univ Louis Pasteur. p203-10.

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