Flowers Are an important food for small apes in southern Sumatra


  • Susan Lappan

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Ecoscience, Ewha University, Seoul, Republic of Korea
    • Division of Ecosciences, Ewha University, 11-1 Seodaemun-gu, Daehyun-dong, Seoul 120-750, Republic of Korea
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Flowers are included in the diets of many primates, but are not generally regarded as making an important contribution to primate energy budgets. However, observations of a number of lemur, platyrrhine, and cercopithecine populations suggest that some flower species may function as key primate fallback foods in periods of low abundance of preferred foods (generally ripe fruits), and that flowers may be preferred foods in some cases. I report heavy reliance on flowers during some study months for a siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus) population in southern Sumatra. Siamangs at Way Canguk spent 12% of feeding time eating flowers from October 2000 to August 2002, and in 1 month flower-feeding time exceeded 40% of total feeding time. The overall availabilities of fig and nonfig fruits, flowers, and new leaves in the study area were not significant predictors of the proportion of time that siamangs spent consuming any plant part. However, flower-feeding time was highest in months when nonfig fruit-feeding time was lowest, and a switch from heavy reliance on fruit to substantial flower consumption was associated with a shift in activity patterns toward reduced energy expenditure, which is consistent with the interpretation that flowers may function as a fallback food for Way Canguk siamangs. Hydnocarpus gracilis, a plant from which siamangs only consume flowers, was the third-most-commonly consumed plant at Way Canguk (after Ficus spp. and Dracontomelon dao), and flowers from this plant were available in most months. It is possible that relatively high local availability of these important siamang plant foods is one factor promoting high siamang density in the study area. Am. J. Primatol. 71:624–635, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.