The goal of the book is to integrate 25 years of data on owl monkeys since the publication of the only book focused on the genus in 1994. The genus Aotus was one of the least understood genera at the time of that book; all knowledge from wild populations was limited to one doctoral dissertation on behavioural ecology. At the same time, there had been then some important research associated first with the establishment of captive colonies and later with their management.
Twenty-five years later, the situation is very different. Research on captive owl monkeys has continued to develop, with valuable contributions in a number of disciplines related to medicine. What is different is that there is now enough information on the behaviour, ecology, conservation, and biogeography of the genus for a synthesis.
The book synthesizes new field data on their behaviour, ecology, reproduction, and mating strategies spanning their entire continental range (Panamá to Argentina). It includes theoretical perspectives drawn from evolutionary biology, biological anthropology, anatomy, morphology and physiology, genetics, endocrinology and conservation biology to examine a specific set of adaptations that have allowed owl monkeys to exploit the nocturnal niche while functioning in a pair-living sexually monogamous system with remarkable patterns of paternal care. The author, with 30 years of experience working with both captive and wild primates, has directed the longest project on any owl monkey species and has conducted original research on virtually all topics related to the biology and evolution of owl monkeys. His expertise and published record working with both wild populations and laboratory colonies will make this book one of the few volumes on any primate genus that not only covers knowledge from both captive and wild primates but devotes an important portion of the content to exploring questions through the integration of both approaches.
Additionally, the volume moves beyond more traditional approaches by several additional features: (1) it brings together a combination of well-established researchers who during four decades have relied on captive owl monkeys as a system of study with a new generation of younger scientists who have, for the last 10-20 years been spearheading their study in the wild, (2) it draws from a remarkably diverse range of authors representing all countries where owl monkeys are present, as well as the U.S and Europe, and (3) it focuses on presenting "synthesis" chapters; in doing so, it will surely become a reference book not only for those specifically interested in the taxon but anyone interested in the broadest topics that are covered.
There have been several recent volumes on primate ecology and behaviour but no single volume is devoted to owl monkeys. A complete volume on owl monkeys is both needed and timely. Needed because of the lack of a similar book since 1994, and timely because of the synergy that has resulted from the author's efforts in promoting and contributing to the development of owl monkey research across the continent.
Dr Eduardo Fernandez-Duque is a biological anthropologist with a general interest in understanding the evolution and maintenance of social systems. His main research interest is to examine the mechanisms that maintain social monogamy and the role that sexual selection may have had in the evolution of this unusual mating system. He is motivated to study living primates as an approach to understanding the evolution of human behaviour. He is particularly interested in male-female relationships, pair bonding and paternal care in humans and non-human primates.
He was born in Argentina and earned degrees at the University of Buenos Aires, a PhD in Animal Behavior at the University of California in Davis, USA, and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University (David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies and Department of Human Evolutionary Biology) and the Zoological Society of San Diego (Institute for Conservation Research). He has been a Researcher at the Center for Applied Ecology (CECOAL) of Argentina and a Visiting Professor at the Universidad Nacional de Formosa, a member of the faculty at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and now is at the Department of Anthropology at Yale University.
The Owl Monkey Project and the Comparative Socioecology of Monogamous Primates Project are providing invaluable data to examine those questions through field research in the Ecuadorian Amazon and the Argentinean Chaco. Additionally, the research on the demography, population biology and life history of howler monkeys in Venezuela and Argentina offers another model to examine mating systems and sexual selection by focusing this time on a very different taxon that lives in multi-female groups.
His extended fieldwork as a biologist in Northern Argentina has led me to take notice of the urgent need to action regarding issues of conservation and education in the Argentinean Chaco. He established a foundation (Fundación ECO) in Formosa aimed at addressing these important issues.