Journal Article

The Importance of Protein in Leaf Selection of Folivorous Primates


Protein limitation has been considered a key factor in hypotheses on the evolution of life history and animal communities, suggesting that animals should prioritize protein in their food choice. This contrasts with the limited support that food selection studies have provided for such a priority in nonhuman primates, particularly for folivores. Here, we suggest that this discrepancy can be resolved if folivores only need to select for high protein leaves when average protein concentration in the habitat is low. To test the prediction, we applied meta-analyses to analyze published and unpublished results of food selection for protein and fiber concentrations from 24 studies (some with multiple species) of folivorous primates. To counter potential methodological flaws, we differentiated between methods analyzing total nitrogen and soluble protein concentrations. We used a meta-analysis to test for the effect of protein on food selection by primates and found a significant effect of soluble protein concentrations, but a non-significant effect for total nitrogen. Furthermore, selection for soluble protein was reinforced in forests where protein was less available. Selection for low fiber content was significant but unrelated to the fiber concentrations in representative leaf samples of a given forest. There was no relationship (either negative or positive) between the concentration of protein and fiber in the food or in representative samples of leaves. Overall our study suggests that protein selection is influenced by the protein availability in the environment, explaining the sometimes contradictory results in previous studies on protein selection

Attached files


Ganzhorn, JU
Arrigo-Nelson, SJ
Carrai, V
Chalise, MK
Donati, G
Droescher, I
Eppley, TM
Irwin, MT
Koch, F
Koenig, A
Kowalewski, MM
Mowry, CB
Patel, ER
Pichon, C
Ralison, J
Reisdorff, C
Starrs, D
Terboven, J
Wright, PC
Foley, WJ

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences\Department of Social Sciences


Year of publication: 2016
Date of RADAR deposit: 2017-05-04

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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