Diademed sifakas (Propithecus diadema) use olfaction to forage for the inflorescences of subterranean parasitic plants (Balanophoraceae: Langsdorffia sp., and Cytinaceae: Cytinus sp.)

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Abstract

Primates usually locate food resources using visual cues and memory, yet the potential for olfactory-guided (or olfactory-assisted) food location remains relatively unexplored. Here we report observations of wild Propithecus diadema that strongly suggest that olfaction is used to locate the inflorescences of two subterranean parasitic plant species (Langsdorffia sp. and Cytinus sp.). These valued but seasonal food resources are found obscured in leaf litter, and sifakas spend considerable time on the ground engaged in what appears to be olfactory exploration before they locate the inflorescences. Because they are visually obscured and occur within a substrate that is rarely used by sifakas, accidental discovery of these resources seems unlikely. Individuals may learn to exploit them by watching conspecifics. Am. J. Primatol. 69:1–6, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Ancillary