Between-group contest competition for food in a highly folivorous population of black and white colobus monkeys (Colobus guereza)
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- Harris, T.R. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2006) 61: 317. doi:10.1007/s00265-006-0261-6
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In theory, between-group contest (BGC) competition for food can greatly influence female social relationships and reproductive success in primates, but few studies have investigated whether such effects occur and, if so, under what ecological conditions. There is evidence that adult male black and white colobus monkeys (Colobus guereza, “guerezas”) defend the food their mates need against other groups, suggesting that BGC competition is important in this species. Using data on feeding, ranging, vegetation patterns, and intergroup encounters between six neighboring guereza groups, I provide evidence that the highly folivorous guerezas at Kanyawara, Kibale National Park, Uganda, engaged in BGC competition over unevenly dispersed, relatively high-quality feeding areas or “core areas”. Intergroup aggression was common, and groups’ home ranges overlapped. Groups were more likely to initiate high-level aggression if they encountered another group within or near their core area, and groups that initiated and won encounters often fed in the same areas in which losing groups had fed. Guerezas fed selectively on species with contagious (clumped) distributions and concentrated their feeding efforts in areas of the forest that contained the most food (core areas). Groups could be ranked in a linear dominance hierarchy, and group rank number was inversely related to the quantity and quality of food in groups’ core areas. This study not only provides good evidence that BGC competition occurs in primates but it also reinforces the idea that folivore food resources may be worth defending.