The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Local-level habitat differences and patterns of feeding ecology in groups of Propithecus coquereli, NW Madagascar


Anthropology, University of Toronto

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Many studies of primate feeding ecology focus on examining differences between different species or populations. However, variation in feeding ecology can occur at the local-level of groups within a population, especially in a heterogeneous habitat.

We sought to determine if groups of Propithecus coquereli living in Ampijoroa Forest Station, NW Madagascar, exhibited local-level differences in feeding behaviour and diet. We compared four groups living in different locations at this site. We placed a series of 25 x 25 meter quadrats within each groups’ home range and compared the number of tree species, number of food tree species, diameter at breast height (dbh), and tree height. We conducted full-day group follows and calculated the proportion of time spent feeding by each group, plant parts and species consumed, dietary overlap, and dietary diversity.

Group ranges showed microhabitat differences: there were significant differences in tree dbh (X2=8.499, df=3, P=0.037) and height (X2=202.205, df=3, P=0.001), and a Principal Components Analysis revealed that group ranges varied in terms of ecological space. While the groups did not show differences in activity budgets or dietary diversity, we did find low levels of dietary overlap for plant parts consumed. Finally, the top ten food resources for each group varied. This study provides us with information on the adaptive flexibility of P. coquereli and illustrates the importance of determining the behavioral ecological responses of a species to microhabitat differences.

This study was funded by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the government of Ontario, Primate Conservation, Inc., The Calgary Zoological Society, and The University of Toronto.

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