The 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2016)

A primate and a bird, sitting in a tree, c-o-m-p-e-t-i-n-g: Co-occurrence patterns of primates and their potential dietary competitors


1School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, 2Institute of Human Origins, Arizona State University, 3Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

April 16, 2016 , Atrium Ballroom A/B Add to calendar

Birds and non-primate mammal species are likely to compete with primates over shared resources. While this has often been acknowledged, it is difficult to test the degree to which competition with non-primate taxa influences primate ecology and distribution. Community studies of geographically isolated primate communities (i.e. on Madagascar and Borneo) have shown that the potential for primate/non-primate competition can vary greatly depending on the biogeographic history and primate species richness of those areas.

Tropical Africa represents a large geographic area that is home to diverse avian and mammalian fauna, including many primate groups. We predicted that primates here would compete with non-primates more frequently than do primates on Madagascar, but less frequently than do those on Borneo. Pairwise co-occurrence patterns of primate and non-primate frugivore species were studied to determine whether primates showed a unique pattern of primate-only interaction. Sites were divided into ecological subregions based on faunal similarity, and proportions of negatively, positively, and randomly co-occurring species were measured for primate/primate and primate/non-primate pairs in each region based on checkerboard distributions. Our results indicate that interactions with non-primates could be particularly important for primates living in more arid environments in eastern and Sahelian Africa. Overall, patterns of interspecific interaction involving primates appear to be mediated by environmental and geographic factors. Research and conservation efforts focused on primate communities here and elsewhere should address the role that non-primates could play in shaping primate community structure.