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Dietary adaptations of temperate primates: comparisons of Japanese and Barbary macaques

Goro Hanya, Nelly Ménard, Mohamed Qarro, Mohamed Ibn Tattou, Mieko Fuse, Dominique Vallet, Aya Yamada, Moe Go, Hino Takafumi, Riyou Tsujino, Naoki Agetsuma and Kazuo Wada

Habitat, diet and leaf chemistry are compared between Japanese and Barbary macaques in order to reveal the similarities and differences in dietary adaptations of temperate primates living at the eastern and western extremes of the genus Macaca. Tree species diversity and proportion of fleshy-fruited species are much higher in Japan than in North Africa. Both species spend considerable annual feeding time on leaves. Japanese macaques prefer fruits and seeds over leaves and Barbary macaques prefer seeds. These characteristics are adaptive in temperate regions where fruit availability varies considerably with season, since animals can survive during the lean period by relying on leaf and other vegetative foods. The two species are different with respect to the higher consumption of herbs by Barbary macaques, and the leaves consumed contain high condensed and hydrolysable tannin for Barbary but not for Japanese macaques. Barbary macaques supplement less diverse tree foods with herbs. Because of the low species diversity and high tannin content of the dominant tree species, Barbary macaques may have developed the capacity to cope with tannin. This supports the idea that the digestion of leaves is indispensable to survive in temperate regions where fruit and seed foods are not available for a prolonged period during each year.

Primates (2011) 52:187–198

APR/11/2011

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