A strong and unexpected correlation between large numbers of howler monkeys and elevated counts of birds on islands created by a Venezuelan hydroelectric project has Duke University scientists looking for explanations. They say their discovery represents a prime example of the unexpected ecological insights that the science all-too-often yields.
The scientists working hypothesis is that excess plant-eating monkeys found on some of the smallest islands counterintuitively spur extra tree growth, which in turn boosts populations of insects that then attract all those birds, Duke investigator Kenneth Feeley reported Tuesday at the Ecological Society of Americas annual meeting.
"If you think about it, you wouldnt expect any sort of relationship between howler monkeys and birds," Feeley said in an interview before the meeting. "It took us by surprise."
Monte Basgall | Duke University
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