International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 669–690 | Cite as

Comparative Feeding Ecology of Two Communities of Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in Kibale National Park, Uganda

  • Kevin B. PottsEmail author
  • David P. Watts
  • Richard W. Wrangham


Several recent studies have documented considerable intraspecific and intrapopulation ecological variation in primates. However, we generally lack an understanding of how such variability may be linked to concomitant demographic variation among groups or populations of the same species, particularly in regard to large-bodied and wide-ranging species with high ecological flexibility, such as chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). We compared the feeding ecology of chimpanzees inhabiting 2 sites in Kibale National Park, Uganda that differ 3-fold in chimpanzee density and support notably different plant communities. Chimpanzees at Ngogo, a site with the largest known chimpanzee community and unusually high chimpanzee density, spent a significantly lower percentage of time resting (and pregnant and lactating females spent more time feeding), incorporated higher percentages of ripe fruit in their diet, had lower dietary diversity values, and had shorter and less variable average patch residency times than did their counterparts at the nearby Kanyawara site, which supports a relatively low density of chimpanzees. In addition, feeding party size was significantly and positively related to feeding patch size at Ngogo, but not at Kanyawara. Together these findings aid in explaining the noted disparity in chimpanzee community size and density between Ngogo and Kanyawara by suggesting that the diet of Ngogo chimpanzees is of higher overall quality than that of Kanyawara chimpanzees. They also highlight the potentially profound influence of even small-scale habitat heterogeneity on the ecology of primates. Researchers must take such influences into account when attempting to draw conclusions about species- or population-level characteristics.


Chimpanzee Feeding ecology Foraging efficiency Population density 



We thank the Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda National Council of Science and Technology, and the Makerere University Biological Field Station for granting us permission to conduct research in Kibale. We thank Colin Chapman, Eric Sargis, Tara Harris, and 2 anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript, and special thanks to Sunday John for invaluable assistance in data collection at Kanyawara. K. B. Potts thanks the LSB Leakey Foundation, Wenner Gren Foundation, the American Society of Primatologists, and Yale University for generous financial support for his fieldwork.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin B. Potts
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • David P. Watts
    • 1
  • Richard W. Wrangham
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyAugsburg CollegeMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Human Evolutionary BiologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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