Meat consumption in omnivorous-frugivorous primates across continents: a comparative analysis




Blinkhorn, Emma

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Primate dietary choices are subject to changing environmental conditions. Therefore, all primates must display varying degrees of behavioural plasticity and adaptability to ecological pressures and modify their diets in response to low food availability. Currently, primates worldwide are threatened by increasing deforestation and the removal of crucial food sources via anthropomorphic activity. Omnivorous-frugivorous primates in particular exhibit extreme degrees of behavioural and dietary plasticity in the wake of resource scarcity but generally do not include considerable portions of meat in their diets. Therefore, an increase in the amount of meat eaten (however small) could be an indicator of dietary stress due to habitat degradation. Considering the increasing fragmentation of primate habitats I investigated the relationship between primate meat consumption and food loss. The diets of a number of omni-frugivore primate species inhabiting different geographic regions, habitat types, and continents, were compared to determine variability in the percentage of meat consumption between each group and whether primate meat intake rose in tandem with deforestation over time. Omni-frugivores in drier habitats or regions of marked seasonality consumed more meat than those found in wetter regions. There was no relationship between the protein content of the plants ingested and meat intake. Furthermore, the percentage of meat in the diets of omni-frugivores tended to increase with the rate of habitat fragmentation, with the average percentage of meat consumption rising by 1.1% between 1970-2015. The relationship between increasing meat consumption and deforestation may significantly aide the conservation of forests, crucial plant food items and sustainability of primate population persistence and health.



meat, diet