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Dietary Flexibility of the Brown Howler Monkey Throughout Its Geographic Distribution

Authors

  • ÓSCAR M. CHAVES,

    Corresponding author
    • Laboratório de Primatologia,, Faculdade de Biociências, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre,, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
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  • JÚLIO CÉSAR BICCA-MARQUES

    1. Laboratório de Primatologia,, Faculdade de Biociências, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre,, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
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  • Additional Supporting Information may be found in the online version of this article. Contract grant sponsor: Programa Nacional de Pós-Doutorado of the Brazilian Higher Education Authority/CAPES (PNPD); Contract grant number: 2755/2010; Contract grant sponsor: National Research Council/CNPq; Contract grant number: 303154/2009-8. *Correspondence to: Óscar M. Chaves, Laboratório de Primatologia Faculdade de Biociências, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, 90619–900 Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. E-mail: ochaba@gmail.com

Abstract

Habitat loss and fragmentation constrain the survival of most forest-living mammals, particularly strictly arboreal primates. Because fragment size directly affects food availability, primate survival in small fragments may depend on dietary flexibility. Here, we review the literature on the diet of 29 wild groups of Alouatta guariba clamitans inhabiting forest fragments in Brazil and Argentina. We identify general feeding patterns and analyze the influence of fragment size and latitude on diet composition. Brown howlers presented a diet composed of 402 plant species belonging to 227 genera and 80 families. Rarefaction curves suggest that the richness of top food species is similar among groups living in larger (>100 ha), medium (11–100 ha) or small (1–10 ha) fragments. On average, only 12% of the plant species used as food sources by a given group was also consumed by groups from other sites. The shorter the distance between sites, the higher the diet similarity among groups. Despite their diet flexibility, brown howlers spent >80% of the total feeding records on 6–24 species belonging to genera such as Ficus, Zanthoxylum, and Eugenia. Leaves and fruits were the plant items most consumed (65% and 22% of the total feeding records, respectively). Leaf consumption was not affected by fragment size, but it was inversely related to latitude, which may be linked to an increase in the concentration of secondary metabolites in leaves at higher latitudes. We suggest that the ability of brown howlers to exploit a large number of plant food species, including native and exotic trees, shrubs, vines, and lianas, is an important trait that contributes to their survival in highly fragmented habitats along the Atlantic forest. Similar meta-analyses of data from other howler species are necessary to test whether such dietary flexibility is a genus-wide pattern. Am. J. Primatol. 75:16-29, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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