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The relationships between feeding-group size and feeding rate vary from positive to negative with characteristics of food items in wild Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata)

Nobuko Kazahari, Yamato Tsuji, and Naoki Agetsuma

To understand the costs and benefits of group-living, it is important to clarify the impacts of other individuals on foraging success. Previous studies on group-living primates have focused on the relationship between feeding-group size and feeding rate in food patches, and have exhibited inconsistent results, showing positive, neutral, or negative relationships. The relationship realized will depend on the balance of positive and negative impacts of co-feeding on feeding rate. The intensity of negative impacts (i.e., feeding competition) may vary with some characteristics of food items such as (1) patch size, (2) within-patch food density, (3) within-patch distribution pattern of food, (4) the abundance and (5) distribution pattern of within-habitat food trees, and (6) the relative energy content among available food items. Thus, the balance of positive and negative impacts of co-feeding, and ultimately the relationship between feeding-group size and feeding rate, is expected to change with characteristics of food items. In this study of wild Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata), the relationship between feeding-group size and feeding rate, and the above six characteristics of 12 main food items were assessed over six seasons. Positive, neutral, or negative relationships between feeding-group size and feeding rate were detected among these food items. Positive relationships were consistently associated with within-patch food density; higher food density within food patches was likely to lead to positive relationships. Thus, various relationships between feeding-group size and feeding rate should be attributed to these specific characteristics of food items, which alter the degree of feeding competition.

Behaviour 150: 175–197 (2013)

FEB/8/2013

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