Primate life histories and dietary adaptations: a comparison of Asian colobines and macaques.


Journal Article

Primate life histories are strongly influenced by both body and brain mass and are mediated by food availability and perhaps dietary adaptations. It has been suggested that folivorous primates mature and reproduce more slowly than frugivores due to lower basal metabolic rates as well as to greater degrees of arboreality, which can lower mortality and thus fecundity. However, the opposite has also been proposed: faster life histories in folivores due to a diet of abundant, protein-rich leaves. We compared two primate taxa often found in sympatry: Asian colobines (folivores, 11 species) and Asian macaques (frugivores, 12 species). We first described new data for a little-known colobine (Phayre's leaf monkeys, Trachypithecus phayrei crepusculus) from Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand. We then compared gestation periods, ages at first birth, and interbirth intervals in colobines and macaques. We predicted that heavier species would have slower life histories, provisioned populations would have faster life histories, and folivores would have slower life histories than frugivores. We calculated general regression models using log body mass, nutritional regime, and taxon as predictor variables. Body mass and nutritional regime had the predicted effects for all three traits. We found taxonomic differences only for gestation, which was significantly longer in colobines, supporting the idea of slower fetal growth (lower maternal energy) compared to macaques and/or advanced dental or gut development. Ages at first birth and interbirth intervals were similar between taxa, perhaps due to additional factors (e.g., allomothering, dispersal). Our results emphasize the need for additional data from wild populations and for establishing whether growth data for provisioned animals (folivores in particular) are representative of wild ones.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Borries, C; Lu, A; Ossi-Lupo, K; Larney, E; Koenig, A

Published Date

  • February 2011

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 144 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 286 - 299

PubMed ID

  • 20925079

Pubmed Central ID

  • 20925079

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1096-8644

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0002-9483

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/ajpa.21403


  • eng