Day-journey length and daily diet of solitary male gorillas in lowland and highland habitats
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We compared day-journey length and daily diets of solitary male gorillas in lowland versus highland habitats. Solitary males in tropical forests of Zaire tend to travel longer distances, to visit more types of vegetation, and to consume more kinds of food than a solitary male mountain gorilla in the Virunga Volcanoes did. The number of feeding sites per day is larger and the mean distance between feeding sites is far longer for the former than the latter. These observations may reflect differences in food breadth and availability between highland and lowland habitats. The herbaceous plants that are eaten by mountain gorillas are densely and evenly distributed in the higher montane forest of the Virungas, where gorillas need not cover long distances to search for food. In contrast, herbaceous plants are scarce in primary and ancient secondary forests of lowland habitats, where gorillas travel long distances and eat various fruits and insects. The patchy and unpredictable distribution of foods may extend the distances over which gorillas search for food in the lowland habitat. However, solitary males showed a prominent reduction in day-journey length and changed their choices of food during the nonfruiting season (the long rainy and dry seasons) in the lowland habitats. This strategy may have developed during the Pleistocene and may have enabled them to enlarge their ranges to the higher montane forests, where fruits are sparse throughout the year.