Fission-fusion dynamics as a temporally and spatially flexible behavioral strategy in spider monkeys
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Fission-fusion dynamics (FFD) encompass a behavioral strategy present in many animal species that reduces the costs and increases the benefits of group living. In this case study, we investigated how group characteristics (size and composition) and fission rates in spider monkeys varied in space and time with rainfall, fruit availability, and fruit variability in two sites, each presenting different characteristics regarding the distribution and size of food patches and rainfall. Habitat characteristics strongly influenced FFD in spider monkeys, particularly subgroup size and fission rate. Subgroup size varied with fruit availability and its variability, while fission rates varied with rainfall and fruit variability. However, both subgroup size and fission rate varied in opposite ways, depending upon habitat type. Subgroups tended to present stable mixed-sex composition regardless of fruit availability. We conclude that for spider monkeys, FFD are part of a flexible behavioral strategy to cope with a locally fluctuating environment and with different environments within the geographic range of the species.