The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Linking GPS data with behavior to study the travel ecology of the Japanese macaques of Yakushima Island, Japan


1Ecosystem Informatics Division, Nat Inst Agro-Environmental Sci, 2Lab Human Evolution Studies, Kyoto University

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Behavioral GIS analysis is becoming part of the standard analytical tool kit for primatologists, made possible by the routine use of GPS devices during fieldwork. In this study, the activities of focal animals were linked to locations fixed at high frequency with a GPS carried by the field researcher while closely following female Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata yakui) of Yakushima Island, Japan. We present results here on three analyses carried out with this dataset on the travel ecology of the monkeys. We mapped the locations where the focal animals fed, groomed, walked, and paused to sit, to confirm that home range use varied by activity. By constructing travel routes from the GPS fixes, we mapped the daily travel of focal animals with the animals’ activities carried out along that route to visualize feeding and grooming sites during each day. Travel segments between key features varied greatly in distance, speed, and route shape in travels between different locations and activities. Researchers have many choices in constructing travel routes to analyze monkey travel at various spatial and temporal scales using different combinations of focal animal activities, time intervals, and filtering techniques to mitigate GPS fix variability. While we consider the GPS-derived travel data to be generally very accurate, there is a need for researchers to standardize methods or explicitly declare methods when presenting spatial data to obtain consistent results comparable among different studies even at a single study site, especially for route distance, which is sensitive to how routes are constructed.

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