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Keywords:

  • dietary flexibility;
  • food availability;
  • fragmentation;
  • habitat loss;
  • Neotropical primates

ABSTRACT

Forest fragmentation can lead to reductions in food availability, especially for some large-bodied tropical mammals such as spider monkeys. During a 15\xE2\x80\x90mo period, we assessed the diet of Geoffroyi's spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) in continuous forest and fragments in the Lacandona region, southern Mexico, and related differences in diet to differences in vegetation structure and composition. We found that both forest types presented top food species for monkeys (e.g., Spondias spp., Brosimum alicastrum), but the sum of the importance value index of these species and the density of large trees were lower in fragments than in continuous forest. We also found that, compared with continuous forest, monkeys in fragments diversified their overall diet, increased consumption of leaves, and reduced the time they spent feeding on trees in favor of more time feeding on hemiepiphytes (particularly Ficus spp.) and palms, both of which were common in fragments. We attribute these changes to the relative food scarcity of the most favored feeding plants in forest fragments. Overall, our findings suggest that monkeys are able to adjust their diet to food availability in fragments, and thus persist in small- and medium-sized fragments. Although it is unlikely that the small size of two of the three study fragments (14 and 31 ha) can maintain viable populations of monkeys in the long term, they may function as stepping stones, facilitating inter-fragment movements and ultimately enhancing seed dispersal in fragmented landscapes.