Lau, A. R., Pinto, B. R., Witczak, L. R. et al. 2023. Room size and offspring presence impact pair-bonded primate affiliation. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 265, 105994.

Primates live in a variety of social groupings and vary in the expression of species-typical behaviors depending upon social conditions. Coppery titi monkeys (Plecturocebus cupreus) are pair-bonding, territorial primates often used to study neurobiology and social behavior in captivity at the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC). At the center, titi monkeys are housed in cages of standardized size. However, the number of cages––and thus families––per room varies based upon the room size (small or large). Anecdotal evidence suggests titi monkeys behave differently in the two different room sizes. To empirically test that room size impacts social behavior, we measured rates of pair-bonding-related affiliation in 23 pairs of titi monkeys. We predicted that monkeys in small rooms would show higher rates of affiliation compared to large rooms. We used a between- and within-subjects design in which all subjects moved from either small to large or large to small rooms. Affiliative behavior was recorded via bihourly instantaneous scan samples. We found that titi monkey pairs affiliated significantly more in small rooms compared to large rooms (t(33) = −3.729, P value = .0005). We also confirmed that the presence of offspring negatively impacts pair affiliation rates (t(33) = −4.136, P value = .0011). Management decisions should consider the implications that housing may have on the results of social behavior research and aim to control for such implications as much as possible. The results of this study suggest that titi monkey pair behavior is influenced by room size, and thus the number of neighboring groups.