Polymorphic color vision in white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus): Is there foraging niche divergence among phenotypes?
Few data exist on how primate populations return to regenerating tropical forests. We compare the ways that two populations of neotropical monkeys, Alouatta palliata and Cebus capucinus, expanded over a 28-year period after the establishment of Santa Rosa National Park on reclaimed ranchlands in Costa Rica. We found that both howler and capuchin populations increased substantially in size subsequent to protection, but the howler population grew faster. This is likely due to their faster-paced life-history pattern than that of capuchins. The howler population increased mainly via the establishment of many new groups, whereas the capuchins expanded mainly by increasing the size of existing groups. We related this finding to the fact that capuchins are limited largely by their need to drink from water holes during the dry seasons whereas howlers are limited principally by their preference for larger-sized trees that occur in older forests. Proportions of adult male capuchins increased significantly during our study, likely due to skewed sex ratio at birth or male-biased immigration into the protected park or both factors. Our main finding is that, in as short a time period as 28 years, we can substantially enhance the size of monkey populations by allowing the regeneration of tropical forest. Furthermore, we provide a preliminary interpretation of how extrinsic factors—deforestation, hunting, crop-spraying, destruction of the watershed—and intrinsic variables, e.g., pace of reproduction; diet, differentially affect not only each species' vulnerability to extinction but also its capacity to recover when human disturbances are minimized.