Use of leaf resources by howling monkeys (Alouatta palliata) and leaf-cutting ants (Atta cephalotes) in the tropical rain forest of Los Tuxtlas, Mexico

Authors

  • Dr. Alejandro Estrada,

    Corresponding author
    1. Estacion de Biologia Los Tuxtlas, Instituto de Biologia, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
    • Estacion de Biologia Los Tuxtlas, Instituto de Biologia UNAM, Apartado Postal 176, San Andres Tuxtla, Veracruz, Mexico
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  • Rosamond Coates-Estrada

    1. Estacion de Biologia Los Tuxtlas, Instituto de Biologia, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
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Abstract

Use of leaf resources by a troop of howling monkeys and two colonies of leaf cutting ants was studied for an annual cycle in the rain forest of Los Tuxtlas, Mexico. Howling monkeys spent half their annual foraging time feeding on leaves; leaf-cutting ants spent at least 80% of their recorded foraging time harvesting leaves. Both herbivores preferred young leaves over nature ones, and chemical analysis showed that the protein: fibre ratio of the leaves used was correlated with these preferences. Howling monkeys used 34 tree species as leaf sources. Leaf-cutting ants used 40 plant species of which 38 were trees. Eighteen species used by Alouatta were also used by Atta; species of Moraceae and Lauraceae were among the most important in their foraging preferences. The plant species used by monkeys and ants occurred at low densities (⩽ 4.0 ind/ha). The seasonal production of leaves, the high density of leaf-cutting ant colonies at the study site, and the high amounts of young foliage harvested by the ants from tree species, and individual trees used by howling monkeys as sources of young leaves suggest that the foraging activities of Atta may represent a significant pressure upon leaf resources available to Alouatta.

Ancillary