, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 601-624,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 14 Jul 2009

Dietary Profile of Rhinopithecus bieti and Its Socioecological Implications

Abstract

To enhance our understanding of dietary adaptations and socioecological correlates in colobines, we conducted a 20-mo study of a wild group of Rhinopithecus bieti (Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys) in the montane Samage Forest. This forest supports a patchwork of evergreen broadleaved, evergreen coniferous, and mixed deciduous broadleaved/coniferous forest assemblages with a total of 80 tree species in 23 families. The most common plant families by basal area are the predominantly evergreen Pinaceae and Fagaceae, comprising 69% of the total tree biomass. Previous work has shown that lichens formed a consistent component in the monkeys’ diet year-round (67%), seasonally complemented with fruits and young leaves. Our study showed that although the majority of the diet was provided by 6 plant genera (Acanthopanax, Sorbus, Acer, Fargesia, Pterocarya, and Cornus), the monkeys fed on 94 plant species and on 150 specific food items. The subjects expressed high selectivity for uncommon angiosperm tree species. The average number of plant species used per month was 16. Dietary diversity varied seasonally, being lowest during the winter and rising dramatically in the spring. The monkeys consumed bamboo shoots in the summer and bamboo leaves throughout the year. The monkeys also foraged on terrestrial herbs and mushrooms, dug up tubers, and consumed the flesh of a mammal (flying squirrel). We also provide a preliminary evaluation of feeding competition in Rhinopithecus bieti and find that the high selectivity for uncommon seasonal plant food items distributed in clumped patches might create the potential for food competition. The finding is corroborated by observations that the subjects occasionally depleted leafy food patches and stayed at a greater distance from neighboring conspecifics while feeding than while resting. Key findings of this work are that Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys have a much more species-rich plant diet than was previously believed and are probably subject to moderate feeding competition.