Specialized seed predators are uncommon in arboreal vertebrate assemblages, and the hypothesis that consuming seeds of immature fruits – which may be available for relatively long periods compared to mature fruit – could reduce seasonal food scarcity experienced by generalist frugivores remains largely untested. To test this hypothesis, we examined the diet and feeding ecology of bald-faced saki monkeys Pithecia irrorata in a largely intact forest mosaic of southeastern Peru based on systematic monitoring of five habituated groups over a three-year period and compared the relative availability of ripe and unripe fruits in their diet. Plant phenology data from individual tree crowns showed that, compared to ripe fruits, immature fruits were available in more tree species, in greater quantities, and for longer periods. Despite pronounced community-wide seasonal changes in fruit production at our study area, feeding patterns of bald-faced saki remained largely invariant: fruits comprised approximately 95% of the species’ monthly diet, with seeds alone accounting for 75%, with no major monthly dietary shifts. The flexible exploitation by this species of a consistently available food supply for which it faces little competition likely reduces foraging effort and consumption of less desirable foods, even during prolonged periods of overall fruit scarcity. The relative rarity of immature fruit specialists in tropical forests may reflect the fact that processing the hard pericarps and neutralizing the toxicities of immature seeds present substantial evolutionary hurdles that few arboreal vertebrate species have overcome.
|Number of pages||9|
|Early online date||21 Mar 2012|
|Publication status||Published - Nov 2012|