10 July 2011

It's Like Looking In A Mirror

In June, Lindsay and I, joined by Lindsay's parents, took a vacation to Costa Rica. This was our second visit to the rich coast, and this time our travels took us to Guanacaste on the Pacific side of the country. We are still going through photos, so more will show up here as we have time to get through them all.

On our first visit to Costa Rica back in 2007, the hatching Green Sea Turtles were the overwhelming highlight of our trip. This time, though, the primates provided some of the most memorable moments. We saw three of the four species of monkeys that Costa Rica has to offer; we did not see the smallest species, Central American Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri oerstedii), and we didn't get photographs of the largest species, Geoffroy's Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi). The three species that we saw all have prehensile tails that are used as one-fingered fifth limbs, allowing them to move with swift agility through the treetops.

Nearly every day on our week-long trip, we heard the grunting and roaring of Mantled Howler Monkeys (Alouatta palliata) from our hotel room. We also saw these large platyrrhines on three or four occasions during our day trips. Our best looks were along our drive to a boat tour through Palo Verde National Park on the Tempisque River. Mantled Howler Monkeys have a geographical range from Mexico to Ecuador and live for up to 15 to 20 years.

Some sources consider Mantled Howler Monkeys the largest species of monkey in Costa Rica, at least by weight, as large males can weigh up to 22 lbs. Other sources say that this species only gets to 16 lbs., and that therefore the Geoffroy's Spider Monkey, which gets up to 18 lbs., is the largest monkey in the country. Geoffroy's Spider Monkeys are more slender than Mantled Howler Monkeys, however. Mantled Howler Monkeys are strictly vegetarians that live in groups usually ranging from four to 40 individuals. These groups have home ranges of 25 to 150 acres. The adjective "howler" in the common name of this species comes from the loud noises that are made by the males (most often at surise and sunset) to communicate with group members and define territories; these communicating sounds can be heard up to three miles away. When disturbed by people, Mantled Howler Monkeys are known to throw feces with precise accuracy.

While on our boat tour at Palo Verde National Park, we had some nice looks at White-faced Capuchins (Cebus capucinus). This species is known from Honduras to Ecuador and has a life span of more than 50 years.

White-faced Capuchins, also known as White-headed Capuchins, are middle-of-the-road in terms of size in relation to other Costa Rican monkeys, weighing approximately 8 lbs. Unlike the Mantled Howler Monkey, White-faced Capuchins are omnivores, feeding on fruit, leaves, insects, and even small mammals and other vertebrates. They live in troops that can consist of up to 40 individuals and have home ranges of 79 to 210 acres. Whereas Mantled Howler Monkeys have not been observed using tools, White-faced Capuchins, which are said to be highly intelligent, have been seen using tools to obtain food and as weapons, and they also apparently use certain plants as herbal medicines by rubbing them on their fur. White-faced Capuchins get their common name from the resemblance of their coloration to the cowls worn by Capuchin friars. If you have seen the Friends episodes where Ross has a pet monkey, this species likely looks familiar to you, as Marcel was a capuchin monkey.

Stay tuned for more photographs and commentary from Costa Rica.


Pete said...

White-faced Capuchins can be quite bold. At Monteverde we had one come into the house while the door was left open briefly. It took a banana from the bunch on the table and was outside again an up a tree before we realized what happened.

Scott Namestnik said...

So monkeys really do like bananas!