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The ontogeny of gap crossing behaviour in Bornean Orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii)


Chappell, Jackie; Phillips, Abigail C; van Noordwijk, Maria A; Mitra Setia, Tatang; Thorpe, Susannah K S (2015). The ontogeny of gap crossing behaviour in Bornean Orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii). PLoS ONE, 10(7):e0130291.

Abstract

For orangutans, the largest predominantly arboreal primates, discontinuous canopy presents a particular challenge. The shortest gaps between trees lie between thin peripheral branches, which offer the least stability to large animals. The affordances of the forest canopy experienced by orangutans of different ages however, must vary substantially as adult males are an order of magnitude larger in size than infants during the early stages of locomotor independence. Orangutans have developed a diverse range of locomotor behaviour to cross gaps between trees, which vary in their physical and cognitive demands. The aims of this study were to examine the ontogeny of orangutan gap crossing behaviours and to determine which factors influence the distance orangutans crossed. A non-invasive photographic technique was used to quantify forearm length as a measure of body size. We also recorded locomotor behaviour, support use and the distance crossed between trees. Our results suggest that gap crossing varies with both physical and cognitive development. More complex locomotor behaviours, which utilized compliant trunks and lianas, were used to cross the largest gaps, but these peaked in frequency much earlier than expected, between the ages of 4 and 5 years old, which probably reflects play behaviour to perfect locomotor techniques. Smaller individuals also crossed disproportionately large gaps relative to their size, by using support deformation. Our results suggest that orangutans acquire the full repertoire of gap crossing techniques, including the more cognitively demanding ones, before weaning, but adjust the frequency of the use of these techniques to their increasing body size.

Abstract

For orangutans, the largest predominantly arboreal primates, discontinuous canopy presents a particular challenge. The shortest gaps between trees lie between thin peripheral branches, which offer the least stability to large animals. The affordances of the forest canopy experienced by orangutans of different ages however, must vary substantially as adult males are an order of magnitude larger in size than infants during the early stages of locomotor independence. Orangutans have developed a diverse range of locomotor behaviour to cross gaps between trees, which vary in their physical and cognitive demands. The aims of this study were to examine the ontogeny of orangutan gap crossing behaviours and to determine which factors influence the distance orangutans crossed. A non-invasive photographic technique was used to quantify forearm length as a measure of body size. We also recorded locomotor behaviour, support use and the distance crossed between trees. Our results suggest that gap crossing varies with both physical and cognitive development. More complex locomotor behaviours, which utilized compliant trunks and lianas, were used to cross the largest gaps, but these peaked in frequency much earlier than expected, between the ages of 4 and 5 years old, which probably reflects play behaviour to perfect locomotor techniques. Smaller individuals also crossed disproportionately large gaps relative to their size, by using support deformation. Our results suggest that orangutans acquire the full repertoire of gap crossing techniques, including the more cognitively demanding ones, before weaning, but adjust the frequency of the use of these techniques to their increasing body size.

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3 citations in Web of Science®
3 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Anthropology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:23 Dec 2015 11:25
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 19:46
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1932-6203
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0130291

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