Influence of Fruit Availability on Fruit Consumption in a Generalist Primate, the Rhesus Macaque Macaca mulatta
Fluctuations in resource availability occur in all ecosystems. To survive, species must alter their foraging strategies according to the quantity, quality, and distribution of available food. The rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta), a commensal primate, is considered a generalist omnivore and very few studies have addressed how its feeding strategies change with respect to resource availability. We examined dietary diversity and frugivory levels in a group of rhesus macaques at the Buxa Tiger Reserve in northern India across one year. Using behavioural observations of diet and phenological monitoring, we found that although rhesus macaques fed on 107 food items including leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, and insects, fruits made up ca. 74% of their diet. Fruit consumption correlated positively with fruit availability, but fruit preference appeared to play an important role; 16% of all the fruit species they fed on accounted for >50% of all fruit feeding observations. We suggest that afforestation programs involving preferred fruit species at the agricultural land–forest interface would prevent forest groups of rhesus macaques from gravitating toward human habitations and reduce conflict over anthropogenic resources. We further propose that the movement of certain primates in the direction of human habitations may be contingent on resource availability and food preference rather than an inherent propensity to gravitate to anthropogenic areas.
KeywordsDiversity index Frugivory Fruit availability index Preference Rhesus macaque
The authors thank the West Bengal Forest Department for necessary permits. Suresh Roy and Netra Prasad Sharma provided invaluable assistance in the field. The manuscript benefitted immensely from discussions with Dr. Kim R. McConkey. The authors also thank Dr. Joanna Setchell, Dr. Oliver Schülke, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments/suggestions that helped improve the manuscript considerably.
- Ahsan, M. D. F. (1994). Behavioural ecology of the hoolock gibbon (Hylobates hoolock) in Bangladesh. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Cambridge, Cambridge.Google Scholar
- Altmann, S. A. (1998). Foraging for survival: Yearling baboons in Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Baker, M., & Shutt, A. (2005). Managing monkeys and mangos. In J. D. Paterson & J. Wallis (Eds.), Commensalism and conflict: The human-primate interface (pp. 445–463). Norman: American Society of Primatologists.Google Scholar
- Bocian, C. M. (1997). Niche separation of black-and-white colobus monkeys (Colobus angolensis and C. guereza) in the Ituri Forest. Ph.D. dissertation, City University of New York.Google Scholar
- Clymer, G. A. (2006). Foraging responses to nutritional pressures in two species of Cercopithecines: Macaca mulatta and Papio ursinus. Ph.D. dissertation, Georgia State University.Google Scholar
- Codron, D., Lee‐Thorp, J. A., Sponheimer, M., de Ruiter, D., & Codron, J. (2006). Inter‐and intra-habitat dietary variability of chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) in South African savannas based on fecal δ13C, δ15N, and% N. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 129(2), 204–214.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Dove, M. R. (1993). The responses of Dayak and bearded pig to mast-fruiting in Kalimantan: An analysis of nature-culture analogies. In C. M. Hladik, A. Hladik, O. F. Linares, H. Pagezy, A. Semple, & M. Hadley (Eds.), Tropical forests, people and food: Biocultural interactions and application to development (pp. 113–123). Paris: Parthenon Publishing.Google Scholar
- Fooden, J. (2000). Systematic review of the rhesus macaque, Macaca mulatta (Zimmermann, 1780). Fieldiana Zoology, New Series, 96, 1–180.Google Scholar
- IUCN (2016). IUCN red list of threatened species. Version. 2016.2. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. Accessed 1 Apr 2016.
- Milton, K. (1987). Primate diets and gut morphology: implications for hominid evolution. Food and evolution: toward a theory of human food habits, pp. 93–115.Google Scholar
- National Research Council. (1981). Techniques for the study of primate population ecology. Washington, DC: National Research Council (NRC), National Academy Press.Google Scholar
- R Core Team (2015). R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. http://www.R-project.org/.
- Richter, C., Taufiq, A., Hodges, K., Ostner, J., & Schülke, O. (2013). Ecology of an endemic primate species (Macaca siberu) on Siberut Island, Indonesia. SpringerPlus 2, 137, http://www.springerplus.com/content/2/1/137.
- Robbins, M. M., & Hohmann, G. (2006). Primate feeding ecology: An integrative approach. In G. Hohmann, M. M. Robbins, & C. Boesch (Eds.), Feeding ecology in apes and other primates (pp. 1–13). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Robinson, J. G. (1986). Seasonal variation in use of time space by wedge capuchin monkey, Cebus olivaceus: implications for foraging theory. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, 431, 1–60.Google Scholar
- Sillero-Zubiri, C., & Switzer, D. (2001). Crop-raiding primates: Searching for alternative, humane ways to resolve conflict with farmers in Africa. Oxford: People and Wildlife Initiative. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Oxford University.Google Scholar
- Sivakumar, S., Varghese, J., & Prakash, V. (2006). Abundance of birds in different habitats in Buxa Tiger Reserve, West Bengal, India. Forktail, 22, 128–133.Google Scholar
- Srivastava, A., & Mohnot, S. (2001). Distribution, conservation status and priorities for primates in Northeast India. ENVIS Bulletin, 1, 102–108.Google Scholar
- Sukumar, R., Venkataraman, A., Cheeran, J. V., & Mujumdar, P. P. (2003). Study of elephants in Buxa Tiger Reserve and adjoining areas in Northern West Bengal and preparation of conservation action plan. Final Report. Bangalore: Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science.Google Scholar
- Symington, M. M. (1987). Ecological and social correlates of party size in the black spider monkey, Ateles paniscus chamek, Ph.D. Dissertation, New Jersey: Princeton University.Google Scholar
- Terborgh, J. (1983). Five new world primates. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Zar, J. H. (2010). Biostatistical analysis (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
- Zhou, Q., Tang, H., Wei, C., & Huang, C. (2009). Diet and seasonal changes in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulata) at Seven-star Park, Guilin. Acta Theriologica Sinica, 29, 419–426.Google Scholar