Food Competition in Brown Capuchin Monkeys (Cebus Apella): Quantitative Effects of Group Size and Tree Productivity

in Behaviour
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Abstract

The effects of group size and fruit availability in tree crowns on per-capita food intake was examined for wild brown capuchin monkeys living in groups of 3-12 individuals. Per-capita feeding time was nearly exactly inversely proportional to group size in small-crowned trees with little fruit, but was essentially independent of group size in large-crowned trees with abundant fruit. Despite the use of such productive trees, per-capita feeding time in the average tree visited decreased by 50% over a 4-fold range of group sizes. This cost of indirect food competition in large groups was not compensated by increased rates of ingestion, preferential use of large trees, of a higher rate of fruit tree encounter per distance travelled. Instead, foraging effort (distance travelled, number of minutes devoted to foraging, total activity minutes per day) increased at large group sizes. Estimates of total energy intake and expenditure suggest that net energy gain is constant for individuals in group sizes of 5-12. I suggest that the upper limit to group size is set by the daylength available for foraging in large groups. Aggression in food trees increased in frequency in larger groups, but the relative feeding rates of dominants and subordinates of a given rank did not appear to depend on group size. Observed decreases in per-capita food intake due to either indirect or aggressive food competition within large groups are substantially greater than the 4% gain in mean food intake that large groups achieve by displacing smaller groups from fruit trees.

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