Ecological correlates of trophic status and frugivory in neotropical primates

J.E. Hawes, C.A. Peres

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51 Citations (Scopus)


Primates are among the most observable and best studied vertebrate order in tropical forest regions, with widespread attention dedicated to the feeding ecology of wild populations. In particular, primates play a key role as frugivores and seed-dispersal agents for a myriad of tropical plants. Sampling effort by primatologists, however, has been unequally distributed, hampering quantitative comparisons of primate diets. We provide the first systematic review of primate diets, with an emphasis on frugivory, using a comprehensive compilation of 290 unique primate dietary studies from 164 localities in 17 countries across the entire Neotropical realm. We account for sampling effort (standardised as hours) in comparing the richness of fruiting plants recorded in primate diets, and the relative contribution of frugivory to the overall diet in relation to key life-history traits, such as body mass. We find strong support for the long-held hypothesis, based on Kay's Threshold, that body size imposes an upper limit on insectivory and a lower limit on folivory, and therefore that frugivory is most important at intermediate body sizes. However, the upper body mass limit of extant neotropical primates, truncated by the post-Pleistocene megafaunal overkill, has implications for the extent of the frugivory-folivory continuum in extinct lineages. Contemporary threats faced by the largest primates serve as a further warning that the feeding ecology and diet of all neotropical primates remain severely undersampled with regard to the composition and richness of fruits consumed. Indeed, frugivorous primates expected to have the most species-rich plant diets are amongst those most poorly sampled, exposing implications for our current understanding of primate-plant interaction networks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-377
Number of pages13
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2014

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