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Journal Article

Ecological and evolutionary significance of primates' most consumed plant families


Despres-Einspenner,  Marie-Lyne       
Great Ape Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation, Department of Primatology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Lim, J. Y., Wasserman, M. D., Veen, J., Despres-Einspenner, M.-L., & Kissling, W. D. (2021). Ecological and evolutionary significance of primates' most consumed plant families. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 288(1953), 20210737. doi:10.1098/rspb.2021.0737.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-D4DE-F
Angiosperms have been essential components of primate diets for millions of years, but the relative importance of different angiosperm families remains unclear. Here, we assess the contribution and ecological and evolutionary significance of plant families to diets of wild primates by compiling an unprecedented dataset of almost 9000 dietary records from 141 primary sources covering 112 primate species. Of the 205 angiosperm plant families recorded in primate diets, only 10 were consumed by more than half of primate species. Plants of the Moraceae and Fabaceae families were the most widely and frequently consumed, and they likely represent keystone resources for primates. Over 75% of species fed on these two families, and together they made up a median of approximately 13% of primate diets. By analysing the relative proportion of different plant parts consumed, we found that Moraceae was mainly eaten as fruit and Fabaceae as non-fruit parts, with the consumption of these two families not showing a significant phylogenetic signal across primate species. Moraceae consumption was associated with small home range sizes, even though more frugivorous primates tended to have larger home ranges compared to more folivorous species, possibly due to the year-round availability of moraceous fruits and the asynchrony in their phenology. Our results suggest that primates may be intricately and subtly shaped by the plant families that they have consumed over millions of years, and highlight the importance of detailed dietary studies to better understand primate ecology and evolution.