, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 257-272

Rank Differences in Ecological Behavior: A Comparative Study of Patas Monkeys (Erythrocebus patas) and Vervets (Cercopithecus aethiops)

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One of the central dichotomies in primate behavior is between species in which there are relationships among females that include stable dominance relationships, and those in which the relationships include weak or unstable dominance relationships. This dichotomy has been attributed to differences in food resources, with stable dominance hierarchies occurring in species that feed on usurpable foods. We compared rank-related differences in nonagonistic behaviors considered to be tightly linked to ecology in broadly sympatric vervets (Cercopithecus aethiops) and patas monkeys (Erythrocebus patas), two closely related cercopithecines that are exemplars of this dichotomy, with the expectation that vervets would exhibit stronger rank differences than patas monkeys in these behaviors. Overall, rank explained more than twice as much variation among vervets as among patas monkeys in ranging behavior, activity budgets, and diet. Vervets did not, however, exhibit stronger rank differences when they used Acacia xanthophloea habitat, in which foods are more usurpable, compared to Acacia drepanolobium habitat, in which foods are less usurpable. In Acacia drepanolobium habitat, to which patas are restricted, higher-ranking vervets converged in behavior with patas monkeys to a greater extent than lower-ranking vervets, suggesting that social constraints interfere with the foraging efficiency of lower-ranking vervets even in habitats in which there are fewer opportunities to usurp foods.