OWS Podcast

The OWS podcast has been on hiatus since 2018, but will be returning with new (and lost) episodes in Fall 2020!


Spider monkeys are not just charming and charismatic denizens of the rainforest, but they are also behaviorally complex and evolutionarily fascinating. Apart from living in complex fission-fusion societies similar to chimpanzees, these jungle gymnasts travel at breakneck speeds high in the canopy seeking fruits on which to gorge themselves, all the while dispersing seeds for hundreds of tree species. Without spider monkeys, the famous diversity of tropical forests would suffer — a tragedy for certain — but it barely scratches the surface of what would be lost if these endangered primates slipped away.

In this episode, we discuss everything spider monkey: from the anatomy that allows such jaw-dropping acrobatics, to ways that they might be saved so that future generations might also fall in love with these spectacular creatures.

Listen below or find One World Science on Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play.

Our featured guests on this episode include:

Behavioral ecologist Andrés Link, who you can see discussing brown spider monkeys in this video about seed dispersal and forest fragmentation. He is also featured in this this National Geographic video talking about the amazing anatomy of spider monkeys alongside some wonderful footage.

Robert Wallace of the Wildlife Conservation Society. He is the Director of the Greater Madidi-Tambopata Landscape Conservation Program in northwestern Bolivia and southeastern Peru. He was also the leader of the Identidad Madidi expedition. You can follow Identidad Madid on Facebook and Instagram.

Nena Baltazar Lugones from Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi. You can also learn more about the important work that they do in this beautiful introductory video.

Extra thanks to our contributors:

Cecilia Coro, for relating her rare experience of witnessing spider monkey copulation.

Gaspard Renault, for conducting the interview with Nena.

Cristina Boronat, for voicing the English translation.

The music for this episode:

Intro music was by Heavenly Queen (used by permission). Other featured artists provided through Creative Commons licensing include: Eaters (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 US), Lobo Loco (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0), Doctor Turtle (CC BY 4.0), Bio Unit (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0), Tepalcate (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0), and Podington Bear (CC BY-NC 3.0).

Learn more about things mentioned in this episode:

You can read about Frida Kahlo and her paintings with spider monkeys here and here.

We mentioned personality in the chimps at Gombe National Park, and that is not the only article on the subject.

Personality, in some form, has actually been studied in sharks, spiders, zebra finches, European greenfinches, felinesmacaques, and of course great apes… just to name a few.

This episode also mentioned the Nonhuman Rights Project and some of the cases which they had brought forth, including that of Hercules and Leo, who are now in a sanctuary.

If you were inspired by the discussion of the Janzen-Connell hypothesis, but want more evidence: check out this meta analysis of over 40 years of experimental evidence.

Brain size and the drivers of greater encephalization in spider monkeys and chimps might have you curious whether it is related to diet, feeding ecology, and/or social complexity, this Smithsonian article is a nice place to start further reading. Then you can also read this study, which gave cognitive tasks to a variety of primates to see if social demands related to fission-fusion correlated with improved performance. One pertinent spoiler: Across 5 tasks, chimpanzees and spider monkeys significantly outperformed gorillas, capuchin monkeys, and long-tailed macaques.

Those who want to hone their spider monkey knowledge may also wish to read:


From small stories to the bigger picture, the brand new One World Science podcast explores the natural world and the many ways that humans connect with it. This premier episode investigates the iconography and ecology of spectacled bears (Tremarctos ornatus).

Elusive and poorly understood — yet also in conflict with human development — South America’s only native bear species inhabits not just a fragmented range, but also a unique position at the intersection of culture and conservation.

Listen or download below. You can also find us on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play.

Special thanks to all of our guests on this episode:

Dr. Thomas Regele, Professor of Modern Languages and Literature at Montana State University-Billings

Travis Vineyard, Curator of Animals at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Dr. Isaac Goldstein, Coordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Society‘s Andean Bear Program and co-coordinator of the Andean Bear Conservation Alliance

Flynn Vickowski, Fulbright grantee researching bears in Peru. Read her blog at: bearfootperu.wordpress.com

Deep gratitude also to:

Podington Bear, who provided the wonderful music throughout this episode under Creative Commons licensing (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Gretchen Bailey for beautifully playing the quena, a traditional flute of the Andes

Katie Corr, Education Specialist at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, for her unflagging support of this project