International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 655–680

Diet ofColobus polykomos on Tiwai Island: Selection of food in relation to its seasonal abundance and nutritional quality

  • Georgina L. Dasilva


A group of Colobus polykomosat Tiwai, Sierra Leone, demonstrated seasonal flexibility in its diet, with seeds, young leaves, and mature leaves each dominating the diet at different times. Comparison of food consumption with phenological data indicates that seeds are eaten whenever available and are preferred to other foods, while young leaves are preferred to mature leaves. Colobus polykomosalso prefer liane to tree leaves, despite the relatively high quality of mature tree foliage at the Tiwai site. Analysis of protein, fiber, and energy values of foods selected and items available, but not eaten, suggests that preference is related to protein and energy maximization. Leguminous plants, especially Papilionaceae and Mimosaceae, are highlighted as important food sources for C. polykomos;seeds and leaves from these families have a high nitrogen content, and the protein content of leguminous seeds often equals or exceeds that found in leaves. It is predicted, therefore, that colobines living in habitats with a high density of legumes will feed heavily on seeds, subject to constraints such as seasonal availability. Where suitable leguminous species are less common, a mixture of fruits, seeds, and young or mature leaves or both is likely to be selected. The results of this and other recent studies of colobines do not support the notion that colobines are specialist folivores.

Key words

Colobus polykomos diet seasonality food selection food chemistry nutritional quality seed-eating 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Georgina L. Dasilva
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyHunter College of CUNYNew York

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