• Africa;
  • Americas;
  • Asia;
  • community structure;
  • coexistence;
  • differentiation;
  • Madagascar


Primates are an extraordinarily well-known tropical forest, mammalian taxon. We investigated potential modes of niche separation in primates by identifying sympatric species with putatively similar niche characteristics and assessing potential competition using data gleaned from an extensive literature review. We defined competing species-pairs as (a) sympatric species in which (b) the body mass of the larger species was within 30 percent of the smaller species’ mass and (c) the species had the same category of diet. A sample of 43 well-studied forests (7–20 per continent) provided 673 pairs of sympatric primate species. Of these, 45 pairs (7%) are potential competitors by our definition. Africa has the largest number of competing pairs (17 pairs), while Asia might have the highest percentage of competitors in each forest site (17%). Niche separation was investigated for each pair by examining them for each of eight possible modes of separation: detailed differences in diets (28% of potential competitors), use of different heights in the forest (25%), use of different types of forest (14%), use of different locations within the forest (11%), use of support branches of different diameters (7%), different ranging behavior (6%), different techniques of prey capture (4%), and differential timing of activity (4%). The use of different heights in the forest is the dominant form of potential separation in Africa (31% of competing species-pairs) and Asia (38%), while detailed differences in diet appears to be the primary mode of niche separation in the Americas (26%) and Madagascar (32%).