International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 949–970 | Cite as

Dietary Response of Chimpanzees and Cercopithecines to Seasonal Variation in Fruit Abundance. I. Antifeedants

  • Richard W. Wrangham
  • Nancy Lou Conklin-Brittain
  • Kevin D. Hunt


In order to understand dietary differentiation among frugivorous primates with simple stomachs, we present the first comparison of plant diets between chimpanzees and cercopithecine monkeys that controls for food abundance. Our aim was to test the hypothesis that monkeys have a more diverse diet as a result of their dietary tolerance for chemical antifeedants. Our study species are chimpanzees, blue monkeys, redtail monkeys, and gray-cheeked mangabeys living in overlapping ranges in Kibale National Park, Uganda. We indexed food abundance by the percentage of trees having ripe fruit within the range of each group; it varied widely during the year. Chimpanzees spent almost 3 times as much of their feeding time eating ripe fruits as the monkeys did and confined their diets almost exclusively to ripe fruits when they were abundant. Monkeys maintained a diverse diet at all times. When ripe fruit was scarce chimpanzee and monkey diets diverged. Chimpanzees relied on piths as their main fallback food, whereas monkeys turned to unripe fruits and seeds. For each primate group we calculated the total weighted mean intake of 5 antifeedants; condensed tannins (CT), total tannins assayed by radial diffusion (RD), monoterpenoids (MT), triterpenoids (TT), and neutral-detergent fiber (NDF). Monkeys had absolutely higher intakes of CT, RD, MT, and TT than those of chimpanzees, and their intake of NDF did not differ from that of chimpanzees, appearing relatively high given their lower body weights. However contrary to expectation, dietary divergence during fruit scarcity was not associated with any change in absolute or relative intake of antifeedants. For example, fruit scarcity did not affect the relative intake of antifeedants by cercopithecines compared to chimpanzees. Our results establish chimpanzees as ripe-fruit specialists, whereas cercopithecines are generalists with a higher intake of antifeedants. The low representation of ripe fruits in the diets of cercopithecines has not been explained. An important next step is to test the hypothesis that the difference between Kibale chimpanzees and cercopithecines represents a more general difference between apes and monkeys.

diet ape monkey terpenoids tannins fiber seasonality 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard W. Wrangham
    • 1
  • Nancy Lou Conklin-Brittain
    • 1
  • Kevin D. Hunt
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Anthropology, Peabody MuseumHarvard UniversityCambridge
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyIndiana UniversityBloomington

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