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Influence of Heavy Snow on the Feeding Behavior of Japanese Macaques (Macaca Fuscata) in Northern Japan

Authors

  • HIROTO ENARI,

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    • Satoyama Science Research Center, Faculty of Agriculture, Utsunomiya University, Utsunomiya, Tochigi, Japan
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  • HARUKA SAKAMAKI-ENARI

    1. Satoyama Science Research Center, Faculty of Agriculture, Utsunomiya University, Utsunomiya, Tochigi, Japan
    2. The United Graduate School of Agricultural Sciences, Iwate University, Morioka, Iwate, Japan
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Correspondence to: Hiroto Enari, Satoyama Science Research Center, Faculty of Agriculture, Utsunomiya University, 350 Minemachi, Utsunomiya, Tochigi 321-8505, Japan. E-mail: h_enari@hotmail.com

Abstract

Natural disasters can degrade primate habitat and alter feeding behavior. Here, we examined the influence of unusually heavy snow on diet and feeding-site use by Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) in northern Japan. To compare the winter-feeding behavior under different snow conditions, we recorded the plant species foraged on by macaques in multiple transects of the Shirakami Mountains from 2008 to 2012 (excluding 2011). We used cluster analysis to describe foraged plant assemblages, and applied multiple dimensional scaling and decision tree modeling to evaluate annual variation in feeding-site use by macaques. Our cluster analysis revealed five types of foraged plant assemblages. The proportion of each type present in transects varied considerably across the years, indicating that the diet of macaques in heavy snow conditions was influenced more by resource accessibility than by preference. Multiple dimensional scaling and decision tree modeling demonstrated that heavy snow conditions restricted feeding-site use. Moreover, the distribution of refuges relative to severe external ambient environments was a stronger limiting factor for feeding-site use than was the availability of food resources. While most primate species facing unexpected starvation employ risk-prone foraging tactics (i.e., choosing the option with higher pay-off by accepting risk), Japanese macaques have a tendency to adopt risk-averse foraging behavior (i.e., minimizing energy loss when searching for preferred diet items under long-lasting heavy snow conditions), because winters with temperatures below freezing have higher thermoregulatory costs. Am. J. Primatol. 75:534-544, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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