, Volume 67, Issue 7, pp 1053-1066
Date: 05 Apr 2013

Food abundance affects energy intake and reproduction in frugivorous female Assamese macaques

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In most mammals, female fertility and reproduction are strongly influenced by nutritional status and, therefore, by foraging conditions. Here, we investigate the relationship between food resources, feeding competition, energy intake and reproduction in a group of wild female Assamese macaques (Macaca assamensis) in northeastern Thailand. Over 2,100 h of data on feeding behaviour, energy intake and activity budgets were combined with data on resource characteristics, female reproduction and physical condition. We found that an increase in food availability had a positive effect on female energy intake and conception rates. In addition, it appeared that females incurred energetic costs during lactation and that females with a better physical condition during the mating season were more likely to conceive. The annual birth season occurred a few months before the annual peak in food availability, causing peak lactation to coincide with a period of high food availability. This suggests that females use the increased food abundance to compensate for the energetic costs of lactation. Neither energy intake rates nor activity budgets were influenced by female dominance rank, even during periods when the levels of contest competition were predicted to be high. In line with this, we found no evidence for rank-related differences in reproduction. The apparently limited influence of feeding competition in female Assamese macaques adds to the debate on the extent to which patterns in feeding competition and fitness can reliably be predicted based on ecological conditions. We suggest that this may partially be resolved by including potential competition-reducing mechanisms into the predictive framework.

Communicated by M. Charpentier