, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 513-548

Physiological Ecology of Howlers (Alouatta): Energetic and Digestive Considerations and Comparison with the Colobinae

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Remarkably little attention has been focused on the physiological ecology of free-ranging primates. Yet without such information, it may prove difficult to advance our understanding of factors influencing the dietary behavior of wild primates much beyond its present state. Mantled howlers (Alouatta palliata) have been studied in terms of some features of physiological ecology. Results of this work have helped to clarify some factors influencing howler and other primate food choices in the natural environment and have called into question various assumptions about leaf-eating primates. For example, though howlers eat considerable foliage, they do not exhibit a lower than predicted basal metabolic rate, nor do available data suggest that secondary compounds strongly influence howler food selection. Comparison of howlers with members of the Colobinae reveals some differences in features of their respective energetic and digestive physiology and raises timely issues for future research.