Tree community structure reflects niche segregation of three parapatric squirrel monkey species (Saimiri spp.).
Paim, F. P., Valenta, K., Chapman, C. A., Paglia, A. P., & de Queiroz, H. L.
Integration between ecology and biogeography provides insights into how niche specialization affects the geographical distribution of species. Given that rivers are not effective barriers to dispersal in three parapatric species of squirrel monkeys (Saimiri vanzolinii, S. cassiquiarensis and S. macrodon) inhabiting floodplain forests of Central Amazonia, we tested whether forest structure and tree diversity may explain species differences in niche specialization and spatial segregation. We sampled 6617 trees of 326 species in three habitats (high várzea, low várzea and chavascal) used by three Saimiri species, and estimated tree species richness in each of them. For each tree, we measured variables known to influence habitat use in primates, such as crown area and presence of lianas, epiphytes and hemi-epiphytes. We used ANOVA to compare these variables and performed multivariate analyses (NMDS, ANOSIM and SIMPER) to evaluate dissimilarities in forest structure among each habitat inhabited by the three Saimirispecies. We identified differences in the tree species richness, crown area and presence of lianas, epiphytes and hemi-epiphytes between the three habitats for all Saimiri species. NMDS demonstrated that areas of high and low várzeas occupied by S. vanzolinii were clearly separated from the other species. We also found that different plant species contributed to dissimilarity among Saimiri ranges. Our findings support the hypothesis that tree community structure may promote niche specialization and spatial segregation among primates. We discuss how these patterns could have been favored by historical changes in forest flood patterns, the evolutionary history of Saimiri spp., and past competition.