Diet and feeding patterns in the kipunji (Rungwecebus kipunji) in Tanzania’s Southern Highlands: a first analysis

Abstract

The diet and feeding behaviour of the kipunji (Rungwecebus kipunji) was studied over 45 months, the first dietary analysis for this species. During 9498 h of direct observation of 34 kipunji groups, a list of 122 identified foodplants was recorded. The list represents 60 families, including 64 trees, 30 herbs, 9 climbers, 7 shrubs, 6 lianas, 3 grasses and 3 ferns. Kipunji were observed eating bark, young and mature leaves, ripe and unripe fruits, flowers, pith, seed pods, rhizomes, tubers, shoots and stalks. Invertebrates, fungi, moss, lichen, and soil were also eaten. Macaranga capensis var. capensis, an early successional tree, was the most commonly consumed species, with leaves, leaf stalks, pith, flowers and bark all eaten. We demonstrate that the kipunji is an omnivorous dietary generalist, favouring mature and immature leaves, ripe and unripe fruits and bark in similar proportions, with an almost comparable fondness for leaf stalks and flowers. Kipunji appear to be adaptable foragers able to modify their diet seasonally, being more folivorous in the dry season and more frugivorous in the wet. Whereas more ripe fruit is eaten in the wet season, the proportion of unripe fruit remains similar across the year. The proportion of mature leaves and pith increases throughout the dry season at the expense of ripe fruits and bark, and this may compensate nutritionally for the lack of available dry-season ripe fruits. Relatively more pith is eaten in the dry season, more stalks at the end of the dry and beginning of the wet seasons, and bark consumption increases as the rainfall rises.

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Acknowledgments

This work was funded by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Particular thanks to Karen and Dan Pritzker, Ashley Scott, Katie Carpenter and an anonymous donor. We are very grateful to Mazao Fungo, Buto Kalasa, Sylvanos Kimiti, Ramathan Maingo, Atupakisye Mwaibanje, Obadiah Mwaipungu, Lusajo Mwakalinga, Willie Mwalwengwele, Christopher Mwapetele, Ibrahim Ngailo, Ruth Starkey and the late Atupele Kasilate for fieldwork support, and Roy Gereau for specimen verification. We thank two anonymous referees for very constructive comments.

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Correspondence to Tim R. B. Davenport.

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Davenport, T.R.B., De Luca, D.W., Bracebridge, C.E. et al. Diet and feeding patterns in the kipunji (Rungwecebus kipunji) in Tanzania’s Southern Highlands: a first analysis. Primates 51, 213–220 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-010-0190-x

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Keywords

  • Mt. Rungwe
  • Primate
  • Foodplants
  • Livingstone
  • Kitulo
  • Kipunji