Published: 10 October 2022 at 20:00
ARU expert part of study looking at impact of climate change and deforestation.
A large-scale study of 47 species of monkeys and lemurs has found that climate change and deforestation are driving these mainly tree-dwelling primates to spend more time living on the ground.
The study, published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), was led by Dr Timothy Eppley of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. It examined more than 150,000 hours of observation data on 15 lemur species and 32 monkey species at 68 sites in the Americas and Madagascar, and involved experts from institutions around the world, including Anglia Ruskin University (ARU).
Many of the species studied are already burdened with living in increasingly warmer, more fragmented, and more heavily disturbed environments that often have fewer available dietary resources. The study found that primates living in hotter environments, and with less canopy cover, were more likely to adapt to these changes by shifting toward more extensive ground use.
As climate change worsens and arboreal habitats diminish, the study suggests primates consuming a more generalised diet and living in larger groups may more easily adapt. The study found that primates that consume less fruit and live in large social groups are already more likely to adopt a terrestrial lifestyle.
The study also found that primates living closer to human populations are less likely to descend to the ground. The presence of humans, which can be a threat to primates, may therefore interfere with their ability to adapt to global change.
Lead author Dr Timothy Eppley, a postdoctoral associate at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, said:
Co-author Dr Andrew Smith, Associate Professor in the School of Life Sciences at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:
The transition from an arboreal to terrestrial lifestyle has occurred previously in primate evolution, but the researchers believe today’s rapid changes are a serious threat. Dr Giuseppe Donati of Oxford Brookes University, a senior author on the study, added: