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Primates

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 74–90 | Cite as

Diet and seasonal changes in sympatric gorillas and chimpanzees at Kahuzi–Biega National Park

  • Juichi Yamagiwa
  • Augustin Kanyunyi Basabose
Original Article

Abstract

Based on 8 years of observations of a group of western lowland gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri) and a unit-group of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) living sympatrically in the montane forest at Kahuzi–Biega National Park, we compared their diet and analyzed dietary overlap between them in relation to fruit phenology. Data on fruit consumption were collected mainly from fecal samples, and phenology of preferred ape fruits was estimated by monitoring. Totals of 231 plant foods (116 species) and 137 plant foods (104 species) were recorded for gorillas and chimpanzees, respectively. Among these, 38% of gorilla foods and 64% of chimpanzee foods were eaten by both apes. Fruits accounted for the largest overlap between them (77% for gorillas and 59% for chimpanzees). Gorillas consumed more species of vegetative foods (especially bark) exclusively whereas chimpanzees consumed more species of fruits and animal foods exclusively. Although the number of fruit species available in the montane forest of Kahuzi is much lower than that in lowland forest, the number of fruit species per chimpanzee fecal sample (average 2.7 species) was similar to that for chimpanzees in the lowland habitats. By contrast, the number of fruit species per gorilla fecal sample (average 0.8 species) was much lower than that for gorillas in the lowland habitats. Fruit consumption by both apes tended to increase during the dry season when ripe fruits were more abundant in their habitat. However, the number of fruit species consumed by chimpanzees did not change according to ripe fruit abundance. The species differences in fruit consumption may be attributed to the wide ranging of gorillas and repeated usage of a small range by chimpanzees and/or to avoidance of inter-specific contact by chimpanzees. The different staple foods (leaves and bark for gorillas and fig fruits for chimpanzees) characterize the dietary divergence between them in the montane forest of Kahuzi, where fruit is usually scarce. Gorillas rarely fed on insects, but chimpanzees occasionally fed on bees with honey, which possibly compensate for fruit scarcity. A comparison of dietary overlap between gorillas and chimpanzees across habitats suggests that sympatry may not influence dietary overlap in fruit consumed but may stimulate behavioral divergence to reduce feeding competition between them.

Keywords

Chimpanzee Diet Gorilla Niche divergence Sympatry 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This paper was originally prepared for the International Symposium “African Great Apes: Evolution, Diversity and Conservation” held on 3–5 March 2004 in Kyoto, Japan. We would like to express our hearty thanks to Prof. Toshisada Nishida for giving us the opportunity to present our work on the sympatric apes at the symposium. This study was financed by a Grant for the Biodiversity Research of the 21st Century COE (A14) and by the International Scientific Research Program (No. 162550080 to J. Yamagiwa) sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture, Japan. It was conducted in cooperation with CRSN (Centre de Recherches

en Sciences Naturelles) and ICCN (Institut Congolais pour Conservation de la Nature). We thank Dr. S. Bashwira, Dr. B. Baluku, Mr. M.O. Mankoto, Mr. B. Kasereka, Mr. L. Mushenzi, Ms. S. Mbake, Mr. B.I. Iyomi, and Mr. C. Schuler for their administrative help; Dr. M. Matsubara for digitizing the daily travel routes of the study group onto a vegetation map. We are also greatly indebted to Mr. M. Bitsibu, Mr. S. Kamungu, and all of the guides, guards, and field assistants in the Kahuzi–Biega National Park for their technical help and hospitality throughout the fieldwork.

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© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Human Evolution Studies, Graduate School of SciencesKyoto UniversitySakyo, KyotoJapan
  2. 2.Centre de Recherche en Sciences NaturellesLwiro, BukavuDemocratic Republic of the Congo

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