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Effects of lactation on the time-budgets and foraging patterns of female black howlers (Alouatta pigra)

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Abstract

Lactation is an energy demanding phase in the reproductive cycle of female mammals. For this reason, several studies have assessed the effects of lactation on female behavior. In this study we examine the influence of lactation on the time-budgets and foraging patterns of female black howlers (Alouatta pigra) in Campeche, Mexico. We observed 32 adult females and 35 infants belonging to 14 groups of black howlers for a total of 2,224 focal hours. We found that lactating females spent more time being inactive and feeding from fruits than nonlactating females. In addition, during the first two-thirds of lactation females were more active (i.e., rested less, fed more, devoted more time to social activities, and moved more) and foraged more intensively (i.e., ranged over larger distances, used more feeding trees and feeding species, and consumed more leaves) than females in the last third of lactation. Lactation seems to force black howler females to reduce activity and to maximize the intake of high-quality foods, with inactivity being the highest during late lactation, when females probably face the cumulative effects of nursing older infants and of a new pregnancy. Early lactation is probably the most energetically demanding stage of lactation for black howler females. This study demonstrates that despite being energetically constrained by a highly folivorous diet, reproductive state affects several dimensions of the behavior of black howler females. Therefore, variation in time-budgets and foraging strategies of howlers has been probably underestimated by previous research that has not considered physiological differences among individuals. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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