Scramble or contest competition over food in solitarily foraging mouse lemurs (Microcebus spp.): New insights from stable isotopes

Authors

  • Melanie Dammhahn,

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    1. Abteilung Verhaltensökologie & Soziobiologie, Deutsches Primatenzentrum, D-37077 Göttingen, Germany
    • Abteilung Verhaltensökologie & Soziobiologie, Deutsches Primatenzentrum GmbH (DPZ), Leibniz-Institut für Primatenforschung, Kellnerweg 4, D-37077 Göttingen, Germany
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  • Peter M. Kappeler

    1. Abteilung Verhaltensökologie & Soziobiologie, Deutsches Primatenzentrum, D-37077 Göttingen, Germany
    2. Abteilung Soziobiologie/Anthropologie, Universität Göttingen, 37073 Göttingen, Germany
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Abstract

The relationships between resource distribution, type of competition, and consequences for social organization have been formalized in the socioecological model (SEM) which predicts that ecological factors are the main determinants of female distribution. We tested this basic prediction in two solitary primates (Microcebus berthae and M. murinus) which differ in female association patterns. Using stable nitrogen and carbon isotope data of hair samples and food sources we quantified inter-specific differences in diet. δ13C in M. berthae reflected a diet composed mainly of insect secretions. Higher within-species as well as seasonal variation in δ13C of M. murinus indicated a wider trophic niche including plant and animal source food. Constantly elevated δ15N in M. murinus most likely reflected extended torpor during the lean season. This energy-saving strategy together with a wider, more opportunistic feeding niche might reduce female competition in this species, facilitating smaller female ranges, and a higher association potential. In contrast, δ15N fluctuated seasonally in M. berthae, most likely indicating varying amounts of arthropod food in the diet. Intense scramble competition over small and seasonally limited resources might lead to female spatial avoidance and a reduced association potential in M. berthae. Thus, differences in female association patterns between these two solitary foragers are due to different types of competition and overall intensities of intra-specific competition. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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