Competition and Facilitation in the Capuchin–Squirrel Monkey Relationship

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In Guyana, the range of the brown capuchin, Cebus apella, meets the range of its congener, the wedge-capped capuchin, C. olivaceus, with the two species exhibiting a mutually exclusive patchy distribution. Squirrel monkeys, Saimiri sciureus, and C. apella form ubiquitous inter-specific associations, but the reason remains debatable. With a large biogeographic field study, we tested the degree to which the distribution and abundance of Cebus and S. sciureus is determined by habitat type, fruit availability, and geography (i.e., determinants of the fundamental niche) relative to interspecific interactions, such as competition and facilitation (i.e., the realized niche). We used the competition between the two capuchin monkeys as a natural experiment that subjected S. sciureus to C. apella and C. olivaceus ‘treatments’. Using spatial regression models and principal components analysis, we found that S. sciureus was associated with seasonally flooded forests, and was correlated with fruit abundance and diversity (fundamental niche), but was also correlated with C. apella density even when accounting for habitat and fruit availability (realized niche). Saimiri sciureus density was unrelated to C. olivaceus density. Cebus apella was associated with a variety of forest types, but particularly included disturbed and edge habitats such as logged forests, seasonally flooded forests, and upland savanna, in addition to mature forest. Cebus apella was also positively correlated with S. sciureus density and negatively correlated with the density of C. olivaceus. In contrast, C. olivaceus avoided riparian areas and was associated with mixed-height forests on sloped mountainous terrain. In sum, interspecific interactions such as competition between species of Cebus and facilitation between C. apella and S. sciureus were as important as habitat and fruit availability in determining the distribution and abundance of these primates.

Abstract in Portuguese is available in the online version of this article.

Key words: biogeography; Cebus; fundamental niche; Guyana; mutualism; realized niche; Saimiri; Sapajus.

Taal Levi, Kirsten M. Silvius, Luiz F. B. Oliveira, Anthony R. Cummings, and Jose M. V. Fragoso

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