Links between habitat degradation, and social group size, ranging, fecundity, and parasite prevalence in the Tana River mangabey (Cercocebus galeritus)

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Abstract

We investigated the effects of anthropogenic habitat degradation on group size, ranging, fecundity, and parasite dynamics in four groups of the Tana River mangabey (Cercocebus galeritus). Two groups occupied a forest disturbed by human activities, while the other two occupied a forest with no human disturbance. We predicted that the groups in the disturbed forest would be smaller, travel longer distances daily, and have larger home ranges due to low food tree abundance. Consequently, these groups would have lower fecundity and higher parasite prevalence and richness (number of parasite species). We measured the abundance of food trees and anthropogenic activity in the forests, the groups' daily travel distances and home range sizes, and censused social groups over 12 months. We also analyzed fecal samples for gastrointestinal parasites from three of the groups. The disturbed forest had a lower abundance of food trees, and groups in this forest traveled longer distances, had larger home range sizes, were smaller, and had lower fecundity. The groups in the disturbed forest had higher, although not statistically significant, parasite prevalence and richness. This study contributes to a better understanding of how anthropogenic habitat change influences fecundity and parasite infections in primates. Our results also emphasize the strong influence of habitat quality in determining daily travel distance and home range size in primates. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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