Friday, November 25, 2011

Rookie Mistake

As I was chatting with Leanna at lunch the other day, a thought occurred to me: my female very rarely nurses.

“Hey Leanna,” I asked, “How often does your female nurse the baby?”

“Oh, I see her nursing once or twice a day” she replied.

Huh… That got me thinking.

We started talking about what Leanna’s female looks like when she’s nursing – baby in the front, back kind of arched, arms elevated a bit, face often looking down at the baby. Huh… That’s exactly what Pedro looks like when he’s holding the baby… You can see where this is going.

Did I really mix up an adult female monkey with a sub-adult male? Could I really be that dumb? So, we started discussing reasons why I could be right and reasons why I could be wrong. (In order to avoid confusion, the monkeys I refer to here as Pedro and Elena are those that I have been calling Pedro and Elena for the last two and a half months - although in reality, they may be switched).

In order to try and find out if I had made a mistake, I reread some of the previous blogs written about my monkey family. “Elena often decides when the group will move on and leads the way”. Well for me, this is usually Pedro’s role. “Pedro and Denito play while Elena and Vicente take care of all vocalizing matters”. This season however, I was finding that Pedro had been helping Vicente vocalize while Elena played with Denito. My investigation was just leading me to think more and more that I was wrong. The main thing holding me back was that Elena was noted as the most endearing and curious monkey with much more apathy towards humans. My Elena is definitely the most curious, she comes closer to me than all the others, and she is my favorite to watch. Pedro on the other hand, when he is not with his dad, is usually off on his own, far away from me. Out of all my monkeys, I feel like I am the least drawn to Pedro. He just isn’t quite as charming as the others (don’t tell him I said that!!! I still love him!!!...err her?).

The monkey I have been referring to as Elena

The monkey I have been referring to as Pedro

As a result of my continued confusion, my after-lunch goal was to take a look at their monkey “bits”, as Kim says. After all, they are supposed to be two different sexes. I returned to my group and found them resting in a sneaky spot. The good news is that they let me get pretty close. I got a good view of Elena and tried to snap some pictures to get a second opinion (yes, I now have photos of monkey bits on my hard drive, all in the name of science). Unfortunately, with my point-and-shoot, the pictures were nearly useless. I was pretty sure though, that this monkey was a female.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “How can she be having a hard time telling the difference between a male and a female? Shouldn’t the male be pretty obvious?” Again, using the words of my boss, the “male bits are unimpressive”. As Titi monkeys form monogamous pair bonds, impressive male bits are not as necessary as they would be in other polygynous relationships.

Tentative conclusion thus far: either I was right, or Pedro is actually Pedra. This idea was also mentioned by a previous GE researcher, so my mystery could be solved.

The next time I had a chance to see my monkeys, I brought my fellow researcher Chantelle with me. She has seen some pretty clear bits from Vanesito, and she has a better camera than I. This time, we got a decent view of both Pedro and Elena. In our amateur opinions, they are both females. Final thoughts: I mixed up my sub-adult and female, and my sub-adult is actually a girl. This situation will sure make for an exciting DNA analysis in the future. Good thing I have lots of poop samples!

Of course, being the absolute perfectionist/worry wart that I am, I panicked. Thoughts raced through my mind of me screwing up the entire analysis of my monkeys for this season. Holy cow! Once I calmed down and came to my senses, I realized that even if I am wrong, it isn’t too big of a deal. The two monkeys are unmistakable (once you know them), and I definitely took accurate data distinguishing between the two throughout my time here. So, if I was wrong, I simply have to change every F (for female) in my data, to an S (for sub-adult), and vice-versa. Thus, the only thing that was harmed with this possible mistake is my ego. Plus, because I have no job when I am done here, I will have lots of extra time to edit my data! Chalk it up to a rookie mistake…