, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 355-377

Selectivity and Variability in the Diet of Milne-Edwards' Sifakas (Propithecus diadema edwardsi): Implications for Folivory and Seed-Eating

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Abstract

Propithecus diadema edwardsi combines a strategy of high selectivity for many food items with the use of more readily available and abundant foods. Selectivity is seen in relation to taxonomic affiliations of plants eaten, forest composition, and phenological patterns. Feeding time is concentrated on relatively uncommon species as indicated by high selection ratios. Annual and monthly dietary diversity is low, with food choices restricted to a relatively narrow set of species: a total of 82 and 73 plant species were eaten by the two groups of which, only 22 and 16% contributed >1% feeding time, however, these values fall with commonly reported ranges. Plant parts eaten varied widely from month to month, with overall variance in seed-eating higher than variance in young or mature leaf feeding. No correlation between percentage feeding time and food availability is significant; instead, monthly feeding patterns are better explained by the availability of particular plant species, which also supports a view of high selectivity in food choice. In contrast to selectivity for many seed, whole fruit, and new leaf sources, reliably abundant food sources appear to be leaves from lianas, epiphytes, and parasites, which were eaten in all focal months. While dramatic interannual differences in dietary composition in response to the absence of a preferred seed source highlight the interpretation of folivores as surviving food crunches by turning to readily available, poor quality resources, this strategy is not unique to folivores.