Random Question about Primate Species Richness in Latin America

SO, once upon a time, before there was SO much information on Wikipedia (such as pages that list all the mammal species of most countries), before Mammalwatching.com was so comprehensive, and before Borders went bankrupt, I used to obtain information about potentinally observable species on my Latin American escapades via Natureserve.org/infonatura. (It’s down sometimes, so if you try to go there and you get an error message it’s not because the world ended or because you typed the wrong address).

Well, if you have time to explore this website, I think it’s actually pretty interesting for mammals, birds and amphibians! I don’t know who took the time to draw these maps for so many species, or exactly how accurate they are, but it looks like someone definiteliy put in the time and effort into the research.

I’ll cut through some explanation, but a long time ago I was looking at a species richness map for primates, just out of curiousity, and the following map resulted:

Taken from InfoNatura on Natureserve.org

Taken from InfoNatura on Natureserve.org

So I was wondering: I have never heard of a place where 21-24 species of primates co-exist.. Is there really such a place?
I recall Kibale Forest in Uganda claiming the highest number of primate species in one place  (13, including chimpanzees and I think gorillas) but I can’t find that claim anywhere anymore, and I also recall Manu Wildlife Center in Peru claiming 13 species, but now that I’m looking again they only have 12 listed (they removed the “brown” or “tufted” capuchin from their list… why? I saw it inside the park, not too far from there.) Anyway, I was just wondering if this is accurate and if there are really 24, 21, or even 17-20 species coexisting in one place somewhere over there in the Amazon.

I realize this is a random topic and I’m not expecting a ton of replies (if any) but I figured I’d throw it on here because I remember pondering about this 5-7 years ago. For comparison, their “species richness” maps for some other classes were pretty accurate, like the obvious one for Perissodactyla (only present in the form of 3 tapir species throughout the Neotropics).

Ok, I hope I bored you enough for one day.


  • Ben

    It looks like the area with the highest diversity is near the confluences of the Amazon with Rio Japurá and the Amazon with Rio Juruá. I’m not sure how large the grid is, but perhaps it’s counting species on both sides of the rivers?

  • tomeslice

    That could be. But still, are there 11-12 different species on opposite sides of rivers? I was under the impression that most primate species (with woolly monkeys being a notable exception) could swim and therefore occur on both sides of rivers. So you may have generally the same species on opposite sides, minus 2-3 different ones on either side. But maybe rivers as large as the Amazon are more difficult to cross, especially with settlements along it?

    • Ben

      The Amazon, Japurá, and Juruá are very wide rivers, and present substantial barriers to movement even for primates that can swim. Several species come to their range limits there – take a look at the maps in Neotropical Rainforest Mammals by Emmons. It’s no accident that you can see the outlines of the largest rivers on the species richness map.

      Also, the red areas are near the confluences of rivers, so it’s possible that the grid is picking up species in three different components. Can you access the species lists from which the map is generated?

      • tomeslice

        Ben, That could be. Unfortunately there is no way to find out from that website which species are taken into account.

        BUT – from Kathy’s post below (and subsequently from the linked website) we now have a confirmation that there are places where 15-19 different primate species coexist.. and that’s only in Peru, before all the big rivers meet. So it sounds like somewhere down the river there might be a place where over 20 species occur.

        But anyway, if you’re staying at a lodge or a research station that’s on one side of the river and has, let’s say 10-12 species, and on the other side of the river there are, let’s say 8 species that are different from the ones on “your” side of the river, then you still have access to view 20 different species potentially from that research station. Which is pretty cool! It actually makes it cooler that you can just cross a river and all of the sudden you experience a different set of animals!

  • Kathy in Boulder

    The Tahuayo River Amazon Research Center, operated by Amazonia Expeditions, in or near the Area de Conservacion Regional Comunal Tamshiyacu Tahuayo, claims 15-19 species of primates. Here’s the webpage:


    On the map posted above, the Research Center may be in a green area (9-12 species), hard to tell. I am going to this Research Center in about five weeks and intend to post a trip report afterwards. Primates will be my trip’s central focus. I’m very excited!

    Re Kibale in Uganda, I recall the rangers there saying 13 species of primate too. Many are nocturnal. There are definitely chimps there. No gorillas though.


    Keeping with the “random topic” theme, last weekend I went to the “Congo” exhibit at the Bronx Zoo. Generally, I am not a fan of zoos, but this exhibit is mindblowing. It is habitat, not exhibit. At least 10 lowland gorillas, who did not seem stressed or even unhappy in the least. Also mandrill and okapi. Worth the time if you’re in the neighborhood.

    • Jon Hall

      I second that on the Bronx zoo. They have Red River Hogs in that exhibit too which are great things to see and some brilliant rodents in the nocturnal house.

    • tomeslice

      That place sounds and looks awesome!! I’m excited for you.
      It’s really cool that they may have at least 3 species unknown to science, AND that Pygmy Marmosets are considered the easiest monkey to see there. Make note of that somewhere in the database of wildlife…
      (I started one.. in an excel sheet, like 4 years ago.. lol)

  • vdinets

    Note that Conservation Species Concept has won in primatology, so almost every subspecies is now called a species. However, most of these “species” will inevitably be lumped back once this fad passes. It has happened before.

  • Ben

    Check out this paper: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00051959. As of 20 years ago, the Reserva Comunal Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo held the record for most sympatric primate species (14 then, 15 counting the new Saki Monkey).

    It also states: “There are likely to be protected areas in the Brazilian Amazon which exceed the primate diversity of Manu (13 species), possibly reaching as many as 19 sympatric species (Rylands and Bernardes, 1989). However, these primate diversities in Brazil have not yet been confirmed by field observations. ” I couldn’t find anything more recent about Brazil.

  • tomeslice

    Vladimir, I did notice that, and I’ve noticed that scientific names of primates keep changing through the years… But from their website it does sound like they have distinct species (maybe not from other places, but amongst each other, the 14-19 species they have seem unique)

    And Ben, that’s pretty interesting! I wish I could just take off a couple of years and do a field study in some of those areas in Brazil… But I guess for now I’ll just concentrate on my Thesis in Mechanical engineering.. Lol. My interests in life are quite diverse, and almost conflicting.

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