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

Primates on the menu: predation as a factor affecting primate communities


School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University

Saturday 2:30-2:45, Ballroom A Add to calendar

Predation is widely considered to have driven morphological, behavioral, and cognitive changes in primate prey species throughout their evolution. However, the extent to which predation has affected the coexistence of primates within ecosystems has rarely been examined. To investigate the effect of predators on primate communities, I compared the presence of major primate predators and their potential mammalian prey communities, including preferred and non-preferred mammals within reported prey body size ranges, at eight sites in four biogeographic regions. Results show that African and neotropical sites, all inhabited by both large felids and eagles, had mammalian prey communities with similar proportions of potential primate (x=0.24) to non-primate prey (x=0.76). In these regions, those sites with more non-primate species that are preferred prey of large felids and/or eagles had communities with higher proportions of primates. The latter trend was not found in Asia or Madagascar where either large felids or eagles are absent and where primates make up higher proportions of prey communities (Asia x=0.35, Madagascar x=0.5).

These results suggest that predation pressure from the combination of large felids and eagles affect primate communities in different regions in similar ways, and that the presence of many species of non-primate preferred prey may release primates from predation pressure, indirectly influencing primate community structure. Further research on past predator presence, current rates of predation on members of primate and non-primate communities, and human effects on predators and prey in each region are needed to help determine the impact of predators on primate communities.

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