Sunday, June 13, 2010

Learning to ID monkeys

From June 13, 2010

Nearly every day we have spider monkeys that visit the station. Sometimes we’ll come back from the forest, and at the station, capuchins and spiders are at the station. There have been two mother-offspring pairs that have been regularly visiting. One pair is the golden female that I’ve named Ariadne, and her infant son Aaron (who, to the amusement of everyone here, I’ve named after my boyfriend). Aaron is an older infant, who travels dorsally on his mom most of the time, but has been making a few forays through the trees on his own. The other pair are Evelyn and Elsa—Evelyn is a large, dark reddish-brown female, with a dark face with markings that I call a “joker smile,” where, she has light markings on either side of her mouth that curl up a bit. Her daughter, Elsa, is a young juvenile-1, who seems to be locomoting most of the time on her own, but has occasionally snagged a ride on mom. Elsa has similar coloring to her mother, and she has a large pink patch around her mouth that curls up in the same “joker smile.” Most infants and younger juveniles have large pink patches around their mouths and eyes, and as they grow older they get more pigmented (by adulthood, some have completely darkened faces, whereas others retain some of the pink around their eyes and mouth).

For the most part, when I focus on identifying features, I start with color (the monkeys here range from golden blond to a deep reddish color to dark brown) and then I focus on “hair-do” and facial marking. Spiders tend to have either slight “cone-heads” or “cheek-fluff,” and then they sometimes have variation in pigmentation on their faces, or interesting facial markings like the ones I´ve described above. Something I really need to get better at is identifying individuals from their hind ends. I´ve heard the skin around the anogenital region, and the color and shape of their genitals as well, help with IDing, especially considering that´s usually the angle we see them at more often. I guess it need to get better at starting at monkey butts and genitals, instead of focusing on faces!

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