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Feeding Ecology of Propithecus diadema in Forest Fragments and Continuous Forest

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Abstract

Forest fragmentation is viewed as a serious threat to primates, yet whether or not it can disrupt food resources and cause energetic stress remains largely untested. I present the results of a 12-mo study of the feeding ecology of Propithecus diadema in fragmented and continuous forest at Tsinjoarivo, eastern Madagascar. Two continuous forest groups had higher dietary diversity and ate more fleshy fruit, but during the dry season, diversity was reduced and they relied heavily on mistletoe (Bakerella clavata). In contrast, 2 groups in fragments employed the lean season strategy of eating mistletoe year-round; the fruiting tree species that sustain continuous forest groups through the rainy season were largely absent. As expected, intersite dietary overlap was highest in the dry season. The level of specialization was high: fragment groups devoted 30–40% of feeding time to Bakerella clavata, compared to 28–30% in continuous forest. The major characteristic of Bakerella clavata enabling it to be an important fallback or staple resource, or both, is its extended phenology. The difference in resource utilization between sites may have important implications for nutritional status, as well as ranging and social behavior, largely owing to the small size and high abundance of feeding patches of Bakerella. Understanding resource shifts in fragments can shed light on socioecological questions by providing comparisons between continuous forest and fragment populations with differing diets and resource distributions. In addition, understanding dietary shifts in fragments can aid in species-specific conservation efforts, while contributing to a better understanding of the considerable interspecific variability of primates in responses to fragmentation.

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Acknowledgments

I thank the Government of the Democratic Republic of Madagascar, CAFF/CORE and the Direction des Eaux et Forêts (DEF) for research authorization. Stony Brook University IACUC approved the animal capture methods. For research facilitation I thank P. Wright, B. Andriamihaja, the Malagasy Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments (MICET, Antananarivo), and the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments (ICTE, Stony Brook: L. Donovan, F. van Berkum). I thank Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation, Primate Conservation, Inc., IPPL, Stony Brook University, the Earth and Space Foundation, and the National Geographic Society for providing funding and NSERC for a postdoctoral fellowship that supported manuscript preparation. For data collection assistance, I thank E. Razanadrakoto, H. Rakotoarimanana, E. Ranaivoson, J. Rakotofanala, C. Randrianarimanana, F. Ranaivomanana, J.-C. Rakotoniaina, P. Rasabo, K. Parks, T. Anderson, N. Melaschenko, J. Lapoint, E. Hatton, J. Mitchell, J. Anderson, J. Tardi, and M. Ali. Student/colleague Jean-Luc Raharison provided invaluable assistance in Madagascar, Ken Glander did the initial animal capture and training, and Karen Samonds aided throughout. Discussions with P. Wright, C. Janson, J. Fleagle, D. Doran-Sheehy, and J. Ganzhorn greatly improved the project, and the comments of C. Chapman, T. Snaith, and 3 anonymous reviewers greatly improved the manuscript.

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Irwin, M.T. Feeding Ecology of Propithecus diadema in Forest Fragments and Continuous Forest. Int J Primatol 29, 95–115 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-007-9222-9

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