Intragroup Coordination and Decision Making
Given that food resources are distributed patchily in both space and time, primates daily face the problem of where and how to find food in an efficient manner, while at the same time avoid competition with neighboring groups. Based on three years of behavioral observations, I specifically study (1) black howlers’ spatial cognitive ability by determining how they integrate spatial, temporal and quantity information about feeding sites and travel routes, (2) whether black howlers adjust their travel strategies and foraging routes in order to monitor food production, (3) whether their navigation decisions are influenced by vocalizations of neighboring groups and intergroup spacing mechanisms, and (4) which intrinsic (e.g., previous use if tree, previous use of species, preference for species) and extrinsic (e.g., proximity, size, phenological status, species density) factors influence the selection of feeding sites. I use spatially explicit agent-based simulation models to gain insights into which social and ecological aspects are crucial in howler monkey habitat use, navigation strategies, and intergroup dynamics.
Leadership of collective group movements
Group-living animals need to make multiple consensus decisions on a daily basis, including collective decisions regarding where, when, and for how long to perform a particular activity . Because social groups are generally composed of members with different nutritional needs, activity budgets, and social and reproductive strategies, group members need to negotiate their potentially conflicting interests and coordinate their activities to maintain group cohesion if they are to obtain benefits that group living can provide. I examine social and ecological factors mediating leadership in collective group movements in black howler monkeys to better understand how group members reach consensus decisions.