, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 63-84

The role of phytochemistry in dietary choices of Tana River red colobus monkeys(Procolobus badius rufomitratus)

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Abstract

We conducted a phytochemical survey of tree species growing within the riverine forests of the Tana River National Primate Reserve in Kenya to understand better the feeding ecology of an endangered resident primate, the Tana River red colobus monkey (Procolobus badius rufomitratus).Young leaves, which make up a large percentage of this monkey's diet, are significantly higher in nitrogen and lower in acid detergent fiber than more abundant mature leaves are. Phenolic chemistry had little inhibitory effect on feeding by P. b. rufomitratus.Choice among tree species by P. b. rufomitratusappears to be influenced largely by leaf availability,once an acceptable threshold of nitrogen and fiber is reached When mature leaves are eaten, they selected species that are high in nitrogen and low in fiber. A significantly higher nitrogen content was found for the mature leaves of all leguminous versus nonleguminous tree species. Consequently, the availability of certain types of mature leaf species during periods of preferred food scarcity may prove critical to groups of Tana River red colobus monkeys.