Washington, October 28 (ANI): In a new analysis, two Penn State University researchers have determined that global warming cycles threaten endangered primate species.
This innovative work by Graduate Student Ruscena Wiederholt and Associate Professor of Biology Eric Post examined how El Nino warming affected the abundance of four New World monkeys over decades.
Wiederholt and Post decided to concentrate on the way the oscillating weather patterns directly and indirectly influence plants and animals in the tropics.
Until the research by Wiederholt and Post, this intricate network of interacting factors had rarely been analyzed as a single system.
"We know very little about how climate change and global warming are affecting primate species," explained Wiederholt.
"Up to one third of primates species are threatened with extinction, so it is really crucial to understand how these changes in climate may be affecting their populations," he added.
The scientists focused on the large-bodied monkeys of South America, which are highly threatened.
Choosing one species from each of the four genera of Atelines, Wiederholt and Post examined abundance trends and dynamics in populations of the muriqui of Brazil, the woolly monkey in Colombia, Geoffroy's spider monkey, which was studied on Barro Colorado Island in Panama, and the red howler monkey in Venezuela.
For each species, long-term research projects carried out by other teams over decades have documented the abundance and feeding patterns of these primates.
By studying the different species, Wiederholt and Post hoped to highlight the importance of the response to changing climate conditions of the trees that provide the dietary resources for the monkeys.
All the species live in social groups and spend most of their time in the trees of tropical forests, using their limbs and prehensile tails to move around or to suspend themselves from branches.
The monkeys differ in the proportions of fruit, flowers, and leaves in their diets.
Woolly monkeys and spider monkeys predominantly eat fruit, howler monkeys specialize in leaf-eating, and muriquis also eat leaves but consume more fruit than howlers.
"Long-term studies like those we derived data from are incredibly valuable for illuminating effects of global warming," Post said.
"Unfortunately for endangered species, such studies also are incredibly rare. We hope our results bring attention to the mportance of maintaining long-term monitoring efforts," he added. (ANI)