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Feeding habits of the bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata) in a tropical dry evergreen forest

Understanding the extent of intraspecific variation in primate diets is important because of the many insights it can provide into evolutionary and ecological influences on feeding behavior. It was in this context that the feeding habits of the bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata) were chosen for a short-term study. Before this study was undertaken, bonnet macaques has been studied in most of their habitat range – including deciduous forest, bamboo thickets, evergreen forests, shoal vegetation, urban areas, and man-made habitats such as cultivated areas with roadside trees nearby – with the exception of tropical dry evergreen forests. The aim of this study was to study diet composition of the bonnet macaques in a tropical dry evergreen forest, with special attention given to diet variations among age and sex classes.

bonnet 200x301The study was conducted in Marakkanam Reserve Forest is situated about 30 km north of Pondicherry in the South Arcot District of Tamil Nadu, southern India . It lies along the coast at longitude 79°57’ E and latitude 12°11’ N. Three small dry areas of land occur in this region – Kurumbaram, Agaram, and Marakkanam – comprising areas of 246, 243 and 26 hectares, respectively. Kurumbaram, situated 10km from the sea, is relatively protected; unfortunately, Agaram and Marakkanam have been replaced by plantation of Casuarina and Eucalyptus.

The bonnet macaques exploited a wide variety of plant species and plant parts at Kurumbaram. In addition, they actively preyed upon invertebrates, which constituted an appreciable portion of their diet. Vertebrates were not eaten during the observations. During the ‘sample period’ considered for the study, 287 feeding observations were scored, with the bonnet macaques making use of 39 plant species and 73 specific food items. Thirty-four of these species were identified, and five remained unidentified. Although the monkeys exploited a wide variety of plant species, they mostly fed on a selected few species. About 54.9% of the feeding observations were recorded from five species, and nearly 71.5% were from ten species.

In this study on the bonnet macaques, there was no significant variation in the diet with respect to age/sex class. With no predation pressure in the habitat under study, and since natural food sources were abundant, the animals were dispersed and freely chose their feeding sites from among the many unoccupied ones. Here, ecological factors such as population distribution patterns and the volume of available food appeared to be more important than social factors such as kinship or dominance relationships in the animal’s choice of food and feeding sites.
Academic output - Dissertations
Krishnamani, R. (1991). Feeding habits of the bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata) in a tropical dry evergreen forest. M.S. Dissertation. Pondicherry University, Pondicherry.
R. Krishnamani


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