Seasonal variation of diet and food availability in a group of Sichuan snub-nosed monkeys in Shennongjia Nature Reserve, China


  • Li Yiming

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
    • Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 25 Beisihuanxi Road, Haidian, Beijing 100080, China
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We studied the diet and food availability of a group of Sichuan snub-nosed monkeys for 14 months (July 2003 to September 2004, except for February) in the Shennongjia Nature Reserve, China. This species is primarily a lichen eater, with lichens (Usneaceae) accounting for 43.28% of feeding records (n=3,452). Other food types in the diet were young leaves (28.71%), fruits or seeds (14.57%), buds (5.36%), mature leaves (3.51%), herbs (2.09%), bark (1.36%), and flowers (1.13%). The monkeys used 23 plant species. Their diet showed a complicated seasonal variation: the monthly diet varied from primarily lichens in November–April, to a mixture of leaves and lichens in May–July, to a mixture of fruits or seeds and lichens in August–October (the latter depended on annual fruit and seed availability). The proportion of fruits or seeds in the diet was negatively correlated with that of lichens, which suggests that the monkeys prefer fruits or seeds to lichens when all of these items are available. The fruit or seed availability varied greatly between the two study years. The proportion of lichens, young leaves, flowers, and fruits or seeds in the diet was positively associated with their availability. The monkeys appeared to be selective feeders. They preferred 10 tree species for plant parts, and nine tree species for lichens. The selection index of tree species for lichens was positively related to lichen coverage per branch on tree species, demonstrating that the monkeys preferred tree species with abundant lichens, as well as dead trees for lichens. The results suggest that dead-tree harvesting in the reserve could significantly reduce the quality of habitat for these monkeys, and should therefore be prohibited. Connus controversa, Cerasus discadenia, Salix willichiana, and Malus halliana should be conserved as top priority species because the monkeys preferred them for both their vegetative parts and the lichens that grow on them. Am. J. Primatol. 68:217–233, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.