Using the Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Isotope Compositions of Vervet Monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) to Examine Questions in Ethnoprimatology
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Anthropology and Museum Studies
This study seeks to understand how humans impact the dietary patterns of eight free-ranging vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) groups in South Africa using stable isotope analysis. Vervets are omnivores that exploit a wide range of habitats including those that have been anthropogenically-disturbed. As humans encroach upon nonhuman primate landscapes, human-nonhuman primate interconnections become increasingly common, which has led to the rise of the field of ethnoprimatology. To date, many ethnoprimatological studies have examined human-nonhuman primate associations largely in qualitative terms. By using stable carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotope analysis, we use quantitative data to understand the degree to which humans impact vervet monkey dietary patterns. Based on initial behavioral observations we placed the eight groups into three categories of anthropogenic disturbance (low, mid, and high). Using δ13C and δ15N values we estimated the degree to which each group and each anthropogenically-disturbed category was consuming C4 plants (primarily sugar cane, corn, or processed foods incorporating these crops). δ13C values were significantly different between groups and categories of anthropogenic-disturbance. δ15N values were significantly different at the group level. The two vervet groups with the highest consumption of C4 plants inhabited small nature reserves, appeared to interact with humans only sporadically, and were initially placed in the mid level of anthropogenic-disturbance. However, further behavioral observations revealed that the high δ13C values exhibited by these groups were linked to previously unseen raiding of C4 crops. By revealing these cryptic feeding patterns, this study illustrates the utility of stable isotopes analysis for some ethnoprimatological questions.
Loudon JE, Grobler JP, Sponheimer M, Moyer K, Lorenz JG, et al. (2014) Using the Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Isotope Compositions of Vervet Monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) to Examine Questions in Ethnoprimatology. PLoS ONE 9(7): e100758. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100758
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© 2014 Loudon et al.
This article was originally published Open Access in PLoS One. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.