Test of the ecological-constraints model on ursine colobus monkeys (Colobus vellerosus) in Ghana



For group-living mammals, the ecological-constraints model predicts that within-group feeding competition will increase as group size increases, necessitating more daily travel to find food and thereby constraining group size. It provides a useful tool for detecting scramble competition any time it is difficult to determine whether or not food is limiting. We tested the ecological-constraints model on highly folivorous ursine colobus monkeys (Colobus vellerosus) at the Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary in Ghana. Three differently sized groups were followed for 13 months and two others were followed for 6 months each in 2004–2005 using focal-animal sampling and ranging scans; ecological plots and phenology surveys were used to determine home-range quality and food availability. There was relatively little difference in home-range quality, monthly food availability, diet, adult female ingestion rates, and rate of travel within food patches between the groups. However, home-range size, day-range length, and percent of time spent feeding all increased with group size. We performed a single large test of the ecological-constraints model by combining several separate Spearman correlations, each testing different predictions under the model, using Fisher's log-likelihood method. It showed that the ecological-constraints model was supported in this study; scramble competition in this population is manifesting in increased ranging and time spent feeding. How costly this increased energy expenditure is for individuals in larger groups remains to be determined. Am. J. Primatol. 71:49–59, 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.