Comparison of Responses to Alarm Calls by Patas (Erythrocebus patas) and Vervet (Cercopithecus aethiops) Monkeys in Relation to Habitat Structure

We studied responses to alarm calls of sympatric patas (Erythrocebus patas) and vervet (Cercopithecus aethiops) monkeys in relation to habitat structure, with the intention of understanding the relationship between the environment and predator avoidance. Patas and vervet monkeys are phylogenetically closely related and overlap in body size. However, while patas monkeys are restricted to nonriverine habitats at our study site, vervets use both nonriverine and riverine habitats, allowing us to “vary” habitat structure while controlling for effects of group size, composition, and phylogeny. Patas monkeys in the nonriverine habitat responded to mammalian predator alarm calls with a greater variety of responses than did vervets in the riverine habitat, but not when compared with vervets in the nonriverine habitat. Ecological measurements confirm subjective assessments that trees in the riverine habitat are significantly taller and occur at lower densities than trees in the nonriverine habitat. Despite the lower density of trees in the riverine habitat, locomotor behavior of focal animals indicates that canopy cover is significantly greater in the riverine than the nonriverine habitat. Differences in responses to alarm calls by the same groups of vervets in different habitat types, and convergence of vervets with patas in the same habitat type, suggest that habitat type can be a significant source of variation in antipredator behavior of primates.