(ORDO NEWS) — Although most modern primates are arboreal animals that prefer to spend most of their time among the branches and leaves, in the rapidly changing world of the 21st century, they are increasingly forced to descend to the ground.
This can lead to a reduction in the number or even extinction of many species that are not adapted to life in the lower tier of the forest.
As climate change becomes ever more pronounced and continued cutting down of trees reduces the area of the original habitats of animals, monkeys are forced to descend from the branches to the ground – both in search of food and simply to move to another surviving patch of rainforest.
This increases the risk of their death due to predator attacks or encounters with people and domestic animals, such as dogs.
To assess how different primate species are coping with their forced terrestrial transition, 118 scientists from 124 research institutions combined more than 150,000 hours of observation of 15 lemur species and 32 monkey species at 68 sites in South America and Madagascar.
The study was an excellent example of international collaboration, bringing together researchers from all over the world, from China to the Netherlands and from the US to Peru.
To understand the reasons why primates leave their habitual home among the branches of trees, the researchers assessed the influence of a variety of factors on the time that monkeys are willing to spend on the ground.
It turned out that species that live in large groups and consume less fruit are more likely to search for food under the trees – as well as those that live in hot climates where trees do not form a continuous forest canopy.
However, the real problem is that even those primates with no terrestrial inclinations (for example, the common capuchin lives in dense rainforests and feeds mainly on fruit) today live in a rapidly warming world where the rainforest area is shrinking. from year to year.
And if terrestrial species can still adapt to survive in, say, open savannah, others will need the help of ecologists and conservationists.
The scientists also found that primates living close to roads or human settlements are less willing to descend to the ground. Therefore, anthropogenic pressure may prevent their adaptation to the terrestrial way of life.
As the authors of the study emphasize, although climate change has played an important role in the evolutionary development of many modern primate species, including hominids, the current rate of deforestation and global warming is putting most species of monkeys in danger of extinction.
Rescuing them will require an equally massive collaborative effort from people from all walks of life, from zookeepers and gamekeepers to politicians.
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