Dietary data are used to categorize species diets, but these categorizations do not take into account the mutability of food resources in time or space, the level of interspecific competition in various communities as these resources change, nor the dietary flexibility of species. In this study, we assess the diets of three sympatric species, Eulemur rufifrons, Propithecus edwardsi, and Varecia variegata, in the Vatoharanana site in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. We determine dietary diversity, overlap, and interannual variation with data collected from 2001 to 2003. We then compare results on food preference and time feeding with data collected on each species in the late 1980s and early 1990s to determine whether these findings are consistent over the long term. We found little interannual variation in the proportion of time spent eating particular plant parts for each of the lemur species during the three study years (2001–2003), and between the earlier and current study. Food items were not always consumed based solely on availability. Dietary diversity was lower in the two frugivorous species (V. variegata and E. rufifrons) compared with the folivorous species (P. edwardsi), and V. variegata and E. rufifrons were more likely to focus their feeding time on one particular genus and plant part in each year. The study species used different strategies to deal with food, particularly fruit, shortages such as a plastic social structure (V. variegata), habitat shifting (E. rufifrons), and dietary switching (P. edwardsi). Although there was low dietary overlap between the study species, they depended on a small number of shared fruits in each of the study years (Chrysophyllum, Syzygium, Ocotea, Plagioscyphus), which may indicate some potential for interspecific competition. Because these lemur species, like all primates, lead relatively long lives (avg. >30 years) and have slow rates of aging, longitudinal studies are needed to test hypotheses reliant on basic dietary information.
- Dietary switching
- Habitat shifting
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology