, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 673-703
Date: 24 May 2007

Influence of Plant and Soil Chemistry on Food Selection, Ranging Patterns, and Biomass of Colobus guereza in Kakamega Forest, Kenya

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Nutritional factors are among the most important influences on primate food choice. We examined the influence of macronutrients, minerals, and secondary compounds on leaf choices by members of a foli-frugivorous population of eastern black-and-white colobus—or guerezas (Colobus guereza)—inhabiting the Kakamega Forest, Kenya. Macronutrients exerted a complex influence on guereza leaf choice at Kakamega. At a broad level, protein content was the primary factor determining whether or not guerezas consumed specific leaf items, with eaten leaves at or above a protein threshold of ca. 14% dry matter. However, a finer grade analysis considering the selection ratios of only items eaten revealed that fiber played a much greater role than protein in influencing the rates at which different items were eaten relative to their abundance in the forest. Most minerals did not appear to influence leaf choice, though guerezas did exhibit strong selectivity for leaves rich in zinc. Guerezas avoided most leaves high in secondary compounds, though their top food item (Prunus africana mature leaves) contained some of the highest condensed tannin concentrations of any leaves in their diet. Kakamega guerezas periodically traveled great distances to exploit rare foods (bark from exotic Myrtaceae trees and soil) outside their normal home ranges. Our results suggest that these journeys were driven by the fact that these rare foods contained exceptionally high sodium concentrations, a mineral believed to be deficient in the guereza's usual diet. Lastly, our results are consistent with the pattern established across other Paleotropical rain forests in which colobine biomass can be predicted by the protein-to-fiber ratio in mature leaves. Of the 8 rain forests for which the relevant data are available, Kakamega features the second highest mature leaf protein-to-fiber ratio as well as the second highest colobine biomass.