Harris, Tara R., Chapman, Colin A. and Monfort, Steven L.
The influence of diet and food distribution on the socioecology of group-living species has long been debated, particularly for primates. It has typically been assumed that folivorous primates experience relatively little feeding competition due to the abundant, widespread nature of their food, freeing them to form large groups in response to predation, to disperse with relative ease, and to have egalitarian female social relationships. Recent studies, however, have come to different conclusions about the extent to which folivorous primates are limited by food and experience food competition and how these factors affect folivore socioecology. To better understand the selective pressures that diet places on folivores, we investigated how 2 small highly folivorous groups of colobus monkeys (Colobus guereza) in Kibale National Park, Uganda, responded behaviorally and physiologically to a steep reduction in availability of their most important foods. The monkeys decreased their reliance on their 2 most frequently eaten food species and increased their daily path length, number of feeding patches visited/day, size of individual feeding areas, percentage of time spent feeding, and dietary diversity. They also showed evidence of physiological costs, in that lactating females' urinary C-peptide levels (i.e., insulin production) declined as top foods became scarce, and parasite loads slightly, but significantly, increased in 2 of 3 adult females examined. These results suggest that highly folivorous primates, even in very small groups, may experience behavioral and physiological effects of food limitation, within-group scramble competition for food, and possibly substantial selective pressures during periods of food scarcity.