Capuchins live a really long time--up to 40 years--so it isn't all that often that an adult in one of the groups that I study dies. In fact, of the 12 animals that I collared for my dissertation, all are still alive 5 years later. However, in a continuation of my bad luck with darting and radio-collars, the photo above is all that is left of Saladino, one of the males we collared in January. We could tell on Thursday afternoon that he had stopped moving, and so knew that either his collar had fallen off or he had died. Thursday is the end of our work week, and by the time we got back to BCI on Sunday morning, this is all that was left of him.
I was pretty impressed by how quickly the jungle did its thing, but I recently learned that it isn't at all abnormal for a dead animal to be nothing but bones in a matter of hours. But a few days ago, I came across a dead howler monkey hanging in a tree, looking like it had just fallen asleep. Three of the female capuchin monkeys were alarm calling at it, and then started poking it and pulling its tail. Eventually, they moved off, but when my friend Robert went back the next morning because he wanted the skull, there was nothing left but bones. Doesn't take long. . .