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Title Black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra) nutrition: Integrating the study of behavior, feeding ecology, and the gut microbial community.
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Publication Date
Date Accessioned
Degree PhD
Discipline/Department 5107
Degree Level doctoral
University/Publisher University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign
Abstract All animals, including primates, face the challenge of obtaining sufficient energy and nutrients despite 1) variation in food availability across habitats and seasons and 2) temporal fluctuations in nutritional requirements due to life history processes. Because variation in food availability or nutritional requirements requires animals to vary energy and nutrient intake, vary energy and nutrient expenditure, or vary digestion and assimilation of energy and nutrients to meet demands, many studies of primates examine shifts in primate activity budgets and foraging patterns across seasons and life history stages. However, few studies establish a direct relationship between activity and diet composition and energy and nutrient intake. Additionally, the mechanisms that primates use to digest and assimilate their food are largely overlooked. Mutualistic gut microbial communities impact host digestive efficiency and assimilation by breaking down otherwise indigestible material and providing hosts with energy and nutrients. Laboratory studies have demonstrated that gut microbial communities shift in response to changes in host diet and physiology, and while these shifts may allow hosts to digest food items more efficiently to meet energy and nutrient demands, no data are currently available to explore this relationship in wild primates. This dissertation describes an integrated 10-month field study investigating the behavioral and physiological mechanisms used by non-human primates to satisfy nutritional demands in response to changes in diet and physiology. Specifically, it examines the relationship between behavior, physiology and nutrition in two groups (N = 16 individuals) of wild, black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) in Palenque National Park, Chiapas. The first chapter explores patterns in black howler monkey nutritional intake across time to determine whether howlers employ a foraging strategy that regulates energy and/or nutrient intake and whether this strategy changes in response to the amount of ripe fruits or leaves in the howler diet. The second investigates the response of the howler monkey gut microbial community to changes in diet composition across time and the potential effects of changes in the gut microbial community on howler digestive efficiency and nutrition. Finally, the third chapter examines differences in activity, diet, and the gut microbiota among adult male, adult female, and juvenile howler monkeys to determine whether behavioral or physiological mechanisms allows adult females and juveniles to compensate for the increased nutritional demands of reproduction and growth. The data presented in this dissertation suggest that although they are able to consume large quantities of leaves periodically, on an annual basis, black howler monkeys consume more ripe fruits than leaves. They also exhibit a protein-regulating foraging strategy similar to that of ripe-fruit-specialist spider monkeys and consume more protein energy and more total energy than spider monkeys. These results indicate…
Subjects/Keywords gut microbiota; nutrition; primate; Alouatta; feeding ecology
Contributors Garber, Paul A. (advisor); Garber, Paul A. (Committee Chair); Kent, Angela D. (committee member); Leigh, Steven R. (committee member); Malhi, Ripan S. (committee member)
Language en
Rights Copyright 2013 Katherine Amato
Country of Publication us
Record ID handle:2142/45368
Repository uiuc
Date Indexed 2020-03-09
Grantor University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Issued Date 2013-08-22 16:38:02

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