, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 1001-1022

Influence of Dry Season and Food Quality and Quantity on Behavior and Feeding Strategy of Propithecus verreauxi in Kirindy, Madagascar

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According to optimal foraging theory, herbivores can base food choice mainly on the quality or the quantity of food, or both. Among herbivorous primates, folivorous lemurs living in the highly seasonal environment of Madagascar have to cope with the shortage of high-quality food during the dry season, at least in deciduous forests. We studied (Verreaux's sifaka) in Kirindy, western Madagascar, to understand the influence of dry season and food quality and quantity on behavioral patterns and feeding strategy (qualitative vs. quantitative dietary choice) of a folivorous lemur in a deciduous forest. We followed 7 groups (4 groups/period; 3 individuals/group/month) during 4 periods of the year (wet season: February–March; early/middle/late dry season: May–June; July–September; October–November). We collected samples of plants eaten and examined behavioral and feeding patterns, considering food quality (macronutrients, proteins/fibers ratio, and tannins) and abundance. We found 1) a significant reduction of home range, core area, and daily path length from the wet to the dry season, possibly related to dietary change and 2) a daily period of inactivity in the dry season for energy conservation. Regarding the feeding strategy, Kirindy sifakas showed 1) high variation and selection in choosing food items and 2) a dietary choice based mainly on quality: Kirindy sifakas fed on plant species/families independently from their abundance and tannins represented a feeding deterrent during the dry season. Overall, behavioral and dietary adaptations allow Kirindy sifakas to overcome the shortage of high-quality food in the lean period.