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

Shifting the focus in primate community ecology: Utilizing patch focals to study unhabituated dry habitat chimpanzees


School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University

Saturday 2:45-3:00, Ballroom A Add to calendar

Researchers studying primate community ecology have largely focused on primate species only, ignoring the interactive role that primates have within their larger communities. However, non-primate species (e.g., birds, bats, and other mammals) can greatly influence the socio-behavioral ecology of primates, especially by competing for food and habitat space. Shifting the focus of research to include these potential non-primate competitors requires a modification in methods as well. The common primatological method of all day focal follows captures detailed information about the study species, but overlooks important phenomena, such as indirect competition, that occur during the absence of the focal species. Patch focals, in which areas of habitat are monitored, allow for observation of all animals within a study area; capture resources that are not used by the study species; and are particularly well suited for unhabituated communities, where closely following fauna is not possible. Chimpanzees at the dry habitat site of Issa, Ugalla, Tanzania were expected to have broader resource use than forest chimpanzees, due to increased competition with other fauna for fewer available resources. Data were collected utilizing patch focals from October 2010 to October 2011. Dietary and habitat preferences were determined for chimpanzees and other fauna, resulting in a detailed analysis of chimpanzees within their larger faunal community. Understanding how fauna interact within their communities is extremely important for informing conservation efforts. For chimpanzees in particular, understanding their ecological role in varying extant environments can elucidate the role of early hominins in similar paleo-environments, when used as models.

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