, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp 435-471

Optimal foraging strategies in the diet of the green monkey,Cercopithecus sabaeus, at Mt. Assirik, Senegal

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The feeding behavior of one group of green monkeys (Cercopithecus sabaeus)was observed between October 1978 and December 1979 in the Parc National du Niokolo-Koba, Senegal. Details of the vegetational composition of the habitat and seasonal variation in food availability were also recorded. The green monkeys’ diet was omnivorous and diverse, including over 65 species of plants, many invertebrates, and some eggs and meat. Preference was given to fruits and flowers, although particular species were not selected; rather, these foods were eaten in proportion to their availability. Leaves, gum, seeds, and fungi were secondarily preferred foods, their consumption depending mostly on the availability of fruit or flowers. There was little overlap in the composition of the diet from month to month, reflecting the strong seasonality of the environment, although there was a consistent intake of invertebrates each month. Differences in diet between populations of the superspecies C. aethiopsare related to the floristic composition of the vegetation. Data on seasonal variation in the diet and changing patterns of resource availability are drawn together within the framework of optimal foraging theory to examine the adaptive strategies underlying the monkeys’ behavior. Their choice of diet was optimal in that they were more selective when profitable food items were common: higher proportions of the diet were given over to fruit and flowers when food availability was high. In parallel with this strategy, a nutritive balance was maintained by consistent inclusion of invertebrates and at least some foliage in the diet, regardless of the amount of fruit or flowers available.