Sunday, September 11, 2011

Certified Monkey Stalker

Friday, September 9: probably the perfect field day.  First of all, it was chilly outside.  I haven't needed a jacket in MONTHS...chilly temps always put me in a chipper mood.  Second of all, we spotted my titi family right after we arrived at 6:00 AM, directly off of the main trail that runs through Yvaga Guazu. Great start to a great day.

There they rested, all in close proximity, about 20m up in the canopy (unsure of the tree species).  It was at this point that I witnessed my favorite titi behavior thus far...tail twining.  Completely adorable.  It was just past sunrise and the light wasn't decent enough to document this precious behavior with my camera, but I promise you that pictures will be taken.  And then you can share in my love for tail twining.  I could see five tails total.  Two individuals were clearly smaller than the other; these were most likely the juveniles.  Each juvenile tail was twined with a larger body, while one tail hung companionless (perhaps this lone tail is my subadult? and the two twinned tails are the parents? no se).  My G4 family rested in that same tree for about 30 minutes more until a nearby 'meow' seemed to send them running.  This intrigues me.  Was it the actual cat sound that caused them to flee or was it just coincidental?  Are the stray cats at Yvaga Guazu preying on the tiny titis?  It couldn't have just been the volume of the meow...since there was pretty much an entire flock of vocalizing birds only 5m away in the same tree.  If I observe this again, then it will mean something more.  Until then I'll just let the idea float around in my head.

Snapped a pic right before this one ran away...

Even though my monkeys scattered quickly, I was able to catch a very exciting glimpse of my female through the binoculars.  We have a baby titi!!  I saw it's tiny titi tail right before the family descended from their perch. could this new bundle of joy possibly be any more exciting??  I get to name the baby!  Baby name brainstorm has already begun.  Currently taking suggestions on names for G4's newest addition...

I lost my male and my female in the whole "cat's meow" situation, but I was able to keep my ears on the three offspring.  Sometimes the foliage keeps those cryptic monkeys well hidden, but you can often hear them jumping from branch to branch.  I visually located one (probably my subadult) foraging high up in a jopo de mono tree.  The seeds of the jopo de mono are encased in a kind of spiky shell-like covering.  The subadult was able to break apart the shell into two halves while leaving the seeds hanging from the branch.  Hands free foraging!  If someone showed me a jopo de mono tree and told me to eat those seeds, I would've never thought to leave it hanging on the branch like that.  Brilliant!  The two juveniles soon joined the lone titi in the feeding tree, where what began as food sharing soon became fighting/bickering between the siblings.  Ahh, good old fashioned sibling rivalry.  Such a classic.

Jopo de mono seeds in their 'shell'

Titi reaching for jopo de mono seeds

After their quick meal, I followed the offspring to a tree located much deeper in G4 territory.  The male and female were already there, and then my reunited monkey family took a really long nap.  I mean, I don't blame them...I love post-breakfast naps.  So does my dog.  Must be a universal theme.  Anyways, my titis rested there for quite a while...probably a little over an hour.  Seems like a long time for me to just stand there in the forest with my eyes glued to this pile-o-monkeys up in a tree, right?  But in reality, time flew.  It was kind of nice to not go running/stumbling/tripping/falling through the forest in attempts to keep up with them.  Long about 8:15 AM, all but one individual abandoned the resting tree.  I looked closely through my binoculars and discovered this last monkey was my male...complete with new baby titi on his back.  Interesting titi trivia: males are responsible for about 90% of offspring care...he carries, plays with, and grooms the younglings, while mom just births and nurses.  The male I was watching moved differently than the others.  Jumping shorter distances, and even coming closer to the ground to reach nearby trees (as opposed to jumping between relatively high branches in the canopy).  This was a behavior I noticed the day before as well; I observed the male of a neighboring group, also with his baby backpack, descend all the way to ground level to run about 5m before scurrying up another tree.  Wasn't expecting to see a titi on the ground...since they're a largely arboreal species.  I guess it has to do with the infant.  Can't risk losing such precious cargo!

I lost sight (and sound) of G4 around 8:45 AM.  I was disappointed when I was unable to relocate them, but it was great to follow my monkeys for so long and it was the perfect opportunity to practice my behavioral data collection.  I still need to learn to distinguish between the individuals of my titi family...but I'm sure a few more days of observation will help me master that skill.  By the end of these three months, me and G4 will pretty much be BFFs.  

One of my titis hanging out in a tree

FUN SCIENCE FACT #6: Fish otoliths accrete layers of calcium carbonate throughout their lives, resulting in rings.  These rings can be used to determine the age of the fish, much like the rings of trees.

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