, Volume 54, Issue 2, pp 125-135
Date: 17 Nov 2012

Overwintering strategy of Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys: adjustments in activity scheduling and foraging patterns

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Abstract

Temperate forests are characterized by pronounced climatic and phenological seasonality. Primates inhabiting such environments experience prolonged resource scarcity and low ambient temperatures in winter and are expected to adjust time allocation and foraging behavior so as to maintain their energy balance. We analyzed the activity scheduling of a group of Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus bieti) based on data collected over 20 months in the high-altitude (>3000 m) Samage Forest, Baimaxueshan Nature Reserve, PRC. The forest consists of evergreen conifers and oaks and deciduous broadleaf trees. The diet varied seasonally, with young leaves preferentially exploited in spring and fruits in summer. The monkeys subsisted on readily available fallback resources (mainly lichens) in winter [Grueter et al. in (Am J Phys Anthropol 140:700–715, 2009)]. We predicted that this switch to a relatively low-quality diet would prompt an increase in feeding effort and decrease in moving effort. We found that the monkeys spent significantly more time feeding in winter than in the other seasons. The monthly time devoted to feeding was also negatively correlated with temperature and positively with percentage of lichens in the diet. Time spent on moving did not vary among seasons or with temperature, but day-journey length was found to be longer on hotter days. Time spent resting was lower in winter and under colder conditions and was also negatively correlated with time spent feeding, indicating that resting time is converted into feeding time during times of ecological stress. These results indicate a strong effect of seasonality on time allocation patterns, constraints on inactivity phases, and the prevalence of an energy-conserving foraging strategy in winter, when costs of thermoregulation were high and the availability of preferred food was low.