Digestive Retention Times in Forest Guenons (Cercopithecus spp.) with Reference to Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)
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- Lambert, J.E. International Journal of Primatology (2002) 23: 1169. doi:10.1023/A:1021166502098
Because the length of time food is maintained in the gut influences fermentation rates and its overall digestibility, information on digestive passage rates is critical to explain the overall feeding and foraging strategy of a species. I present results from digestive passage experiments conducted on captive Cercopithecus ascanius, C. mitis, C. neglectus, Miopithecus talapoin, and Pan troglodytes. I recorded several measures of digestive passage time, including transit time (time of first marker appearance; TT), mean retention time of markers (MRT), and time of last appearance of a marker (TLA). I conducted 4 trials on each of the 10 subjects. A trial consists of the administration of 20, non-toxic colored plastic markers. Overall, the 5 species varied in digestive times (p < 0.01), but there is no difference between Cercopithecus neglectus and Pan troglodytes (p = 0.131) or between C. mitis and C. ascanius (p = 0.661). When the effect of body size is removed (by computing the ratio y/x, where x = body mass, and y = MRT), Pan troglodytes exhibits a low ratio, suggesting relatively slow retention times in the 4 cercopithecines. My findings and other published digestive passage rates suggest that lengthy digestive retention times may be characteristic of cercopithecines. These data may help to interpret how the smaller-bodied guenons are able to consume a higher percentage of fiber than that of chimpanzees, a specialized frugivore. Small body size, in combination with long digestive passage times may be an adaptation on the part of Cercopithecus species to consume a high fiber diet, while maintaining a greater capacity to detoxify secondary metabolites.