Competition, predation, and the evolutionary significance of the cercopithecine cheek pouch: The case of Cercopithecus and Lophocebus

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Abstract

Reports of cercopithecine cheek pouch use and functional significance are largely anecdotal, and to date there have been no investigations into its use by species living in closed forest habitats. Here, I report on cheek pouch use in Cercopithecus ascanius and Lophocebus albigena in the Kibale National Park, Uganda, between July–October 1997. Two hypotheses were evaluated: this feature was selected for because of its role in 1) increasing feeding efficiency via a reduction in potential feeding competition, and/or 2) reducing vulnerability to predation. Results indicate that both species were more likely to use their cheek pouches when feeding on contestable foods and, after filling cheek pouches, retreated to more densely vegetated (“safer”) positions for processing food. There was no influence of age and sex on L. albigena cheek pouch use. Subadult C. ascanius cheek-pouched less frequently than adults, although there were no differences between adult males and females. There was no relationship between feeding-patch size and number of plant food items cheek-pouched in either species. However, the diameter of breast height (dbh; a measure of patch size) of trees in which C. ascanius used their cheek pouches was significantly larger than the dbh of trees in which they did not. Both species were more likely to use their cheek pouches in the presence of greater numbers of conspecifics. These data provide insight into the relationship(s) among oral anatomy and feeding efficiency, and facilitate understanding into the selection for this important oral feature in stem cercopithecines. Am J Phys Anthropol 126:183–192, 2005. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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