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Keywords:

  • primate;
  • locomotion;
  • support use

Abstract

The large body mass and exclusively arboreal lifestyle of Sumatran orangutans identify them as a key species in understanding the dynamic between primates and their environment. Increased knowledge of primate locomotor ecology, coupled with recent developments in the standardization of positional mode classifications (Hunt et al. [1996] Primates 37:363–387), opened the way for sophisticated multivariate statistical approaches, clarifying complex associations between multiple influences on locomotion. In this study we present a log-linear modelling approach used to identify key associations between orangutan locomotion, canopy level, support use, and contextual behavior. Log-linear modelling is particularly appropriate because it is designed for categorical data, provides a systematic method for testing alternative hypotheses regarding interactions between variables, and allows interactions to be ranked numerically in terms of relative importance. Support diameter and type were found to have the strongest associations with locomotor repertoire, suggesting that orangutans have evolved distinct locomotor modes to solve a variety of complex habitat problems. However, height in the canopy and contextual behavior do not directly influence locomotion: instead, their effect is modified by support type and support diameter, respectively. Contrary to classic predictions, age-sex category has only limited influence on orangutan support use and locomotion, perhaps reflecting the presence of arboreal pathways which individuals of all age-sex categories follow. Effects are primarily related to a tendency for adult, parous females to adopt a more cautious approach to locomotion than adult males and immature subjects. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.