The proximate and ultimate determinants that may have prompted some primates to shift from an arboreal to terrestrial feeding niche, whether due to environmental change, seasonality, and/or predation pressure, are poorly understood. Within a fragmented littoral forest in southeast Madagascar, an arboreal strepsirrhine population spends a large proportion of time on the ground, thus we aimed to identify which factors influence terrestrial feeding.
From January to December 2013, we conducted 103 full-day focal follows on three social groups of southern bamboo lemurs H. meridionalis. We continuously recorded feeding time on all arboreal and terrestrial items, as well as whether the focal individual was under the canopy or exposed, and the distance to their nearest conspecific neighbor. All observed food items were collected and analyzed for macronutrient content. Daily climatic variables (temperature, precipitation), resource seasonality, daily path length (DPL), along with dietary and predation risk proxies, were used as fixed effects in a linear mixed model, with the daily proportion of terrestrial feeding as the dependent variable.
Our model indicated that daily terrestrial feeding increased at cooler temperature, was associated with reduced DPL, and the intake of dietary metabolizable energy increased as terrestrial feeding increased. All other fixed effects were not significant predictors.
Our study provides a window into the ultimate determinants of niche expansion: ancestral primates, in absence of their primary resources, may have initially descended to the ground in peripheral population range areas where the benefits (e g., nutritional pay-off) out-weighed the costs.
Eppley, TDonati, GGanzhorn, J
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences\Department of Social Sciences
Year of publication: 2016Date of RADAR deposit: 2016-08-25