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

‘The other faunivory’ at Semliki, Uganda: is there evidence for a ‘savanna chimpanzee’ pattern of insectivory?


1Department of Anthropology, Yale University, 2Department of Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge, 3Department of Anthropology, Miami University, 4Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, 5Department of Anthropology, Indiana University

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Chimpanzee insectivory varies widely across study sites in Africa. This includes variation in taxa consumed, tool use, and frequency of insect consumption. Analyses of prey species have shown that insects can be nutritionally important. If they are, chimpanzees in dry, open habitats, where preferred fruit species are less abundant, might show similar patterns of increased insectivory across sites. We studied the Mugiri community of the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve, Uganda from May through November 2008. We measured the abundance, diversity and activity patterns of insect species known to be preyed upon by chimpanzees by doing 5 km of transects and monitoring 39 insect colonies throughout the chimpanzees’ range. We also used both direct observation and fecal analysis to monitor insectivory by chimpanzees. Chimpanzees exhibited high levels of insectivory, though they consumed relatively few taxa. Of the fecal samples, 45% contained weaver ants (Oecophylla longinoda), 24% contained honey bees (Apis mellifera), 9% contained freshwater crabs, and 12% contained unknown insect larvae. We observed chimpanzees eating stingless bees (Meloponini) and A. mellifera. Mugiri chimpanzees ignored species of common and widespread termites (Macrotermes, Pseudocanthotermes, and Trinervitermes) and ants (Camponotus, Crematogaster, Dorylus, and Pachycondyla) that are frequently consumed by other populations of chimpanzees. We used cladistic and hierarchical cluster analyses to group long-term study sites across Africa by insect prey taxa. Neither analysis recovered a group of dry, open sites. Instead, the Mugiri community tended to cluster with other Ugandan sites. The results suggest that insectivory may depend on more than just local ecology.

This study was supported by the National Science Foundation, Indiana University, Rebecca Jeanne Andrew Memorial Fund (Miami University), and Bedford and Durham College Funds (King’s College, University of Cambridge).

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