The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Female dominance and feeding behavior in Verreaux’s sifaka in the Kirindy Mitea National Park


Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin

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Female dominance is generally associated with female feeding priority. Thus female dominant species are expected to feed more on preferred food resources and for longer durations. Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) is an arboreal, folivorous lemur that lives in social groups of two to thirteen individuals and exhibits female dominance. We tested the hypothesis that female dominance causes sex differences in food intake. We examined the feeding behavior of four social groups of Verreaux’s sifaka in the Kirindy Mitea National Park. Focal animal sampling was used to collect data on fifteen individuals (eight females, seven males) from January to December 2008. We examined the proportion of time spent feeding on the top fifteen preferred food species. Even though Verreaux’s sifaka are female dominant, we found that males and females generally did not significantly differ in the proportion of time they time spent feeding on the preferred food species. We found that females did spend a significantly greater proportion of their feeding time on Givotia madagascariensis and a trend for females to feed more on Bauhinia porosa than males. Interestingly, we found no sex differences in feeding behaviors for species known to be high in tannins, such as Albizia perreri, even though female sifaka have been suggested to seek out tannin-rich foods. While we did not examine food quality, food intake rates, or feeding order, our results suggest that female dominance does not generally lead to females spending a greater proportion of their time feeding on preferred food species than males.

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