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Keywords:

  • Ateles;
  • Chiropotes;
  • Food choice;
  • Fruit hardness;
  • Diet;
  • Sclerocarpic harvesting

Abstract

Fruit color and size are significant determinants of food choice in mammals and birds, but hardness, an important physical property of fruit and seeds, has generally been overlooked as a determinant of food choice in studies of mammalian foraging behavior. Two methods were used to determine fruit hardness during a field study of two sympatric primates, the black spider monkey (Ateles paniscus) and the bearded saki monkey (Chiropotes satanas) in Surinam. We measured both puncture resistance of fruit pericarp and crushing resistance of seeds. Puncture resistance of the pericarp of some fruit opened by Chiropotes was as much as 15 times greater than that of all fruit successfully opened by Ateles. In contrast, crushing resistance of species of seeds masticated by Chiropotes was significantly lower than that of seeds swallowed by Ateles. These data demonstrate that hardness of both fruit pericarp and seed may play a significant role in food choice among sympatric vertebrates. Measurements of both puncture resistance of the pericarp and crushing resistance of the seed are necessary for understanding the significance of fruit hardness in these primates.