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Keywords:

  • Arboreal locomotion;
  • Functional ecology;
  • Canopy structure;
  • Gaps;
  • Selectivity

Abstract

To examine functional questions of arboreal locomotor ecology, the selection of canopy elements by Bornean agile gibbons (Hylobates agilis) and long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) was contrasted, and related to locomotor behaviors. The two species, and in some cases, the macaque sexes, varied in their use of most structural elements. Although both species traveled most frequently in the main canopy layer (macaques: 56%, gibbons: 48%), the gibbons strongly preferred the emergent canopy layer and traveled higher than the macaques (31 vs. 23 m above ground) in larger trees (48 vs. 26 cm dbh). Macaques preferred to cross narrower gaps (50% were in the class 0.1–0.5 m wide) than gibbons (42% were 1.6–3.0 m wide), consistent with the maximum gap width each crossed (3.5 m for macaques, 9 m for gibbons). Macaques could cross only 12% of the gaps encountered in the main canopy, and < 5% of the gaps in each of the other four layers. In contrast, all layers appear relatively continuous for gibbons. Specialized locomotor modes were used disproportionately at the beginning and end of travel segments, further indicating that behavior was organized around gap crossings. A model is defined, the Perceived Continuity Index (PCI), which predicts the relative use of canopy strata for each species, based on the percentage of gaps a species can cross, the frequency of gaps, and median length of continuous canopy structure in each canopy layer. The results support the hypothesis that locomotor behaviors, and strategies of selecting canopy strata for travel, are strongly constrained by wide gaps between trees and are ultimately based on selection for efficient direct line travel between distant points. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.