Some primates spend their entire lives in trees. They avoid the ground, where preferred food is scarce and predators lurk. But deforestation and climate change are threatening their homes in the branches. Habitat loss has some primates swinging down to see what the ground offers, scientists reported recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The massive study included more than 150,000 hours of observations from 20 sites in Madagascar and 48 sites in the Americas. A global team of 118 researchers analyzed 34 years of field observations of tree-dwelling monkey and lemur species. “We wanted to understand what factors were the most influential in increasing ground use” by arboreal primates, said Timothy Eppley, postdoctoral fellow at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance in California. Eppley led the study, and several of the co-authors credit his leadership for its success. A Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) sits alert while foraging on the forest floor in Madagascar. Photo credit: Timothy Eppley On average, primates in the study spent less than 5 percent of their time on the ground. It doesn’t sound like much, but any time on the ground is dangerous. Predators can strike in a matter of seconds, said study co-author Patricia Wright, a conservation biologist at Stony Brook University in New York. Even so, some animals take the risk. The study revealed that species with certain social and physical traits may have an advantage. Primates with diverse diets and larger group sizes might adapt more easily to terrestrial…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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