Foraging Profiles of Sympatric Lowland Gorillas and Chimpanzees in the Lope Reserve, Gabon [and Discussion]

Caroline E. G. Tutin, Michel Fernandez, M. Elizabeth Rogers, Elizabeth A. Williamson, William C. McGrew, S. A. Altmann, D. A. T. Southgate, I. Crowe, C. E. G. Tutin, A. Whiten, N. L. Conklin, L. Barrett


Comparison of the diets of sympatric gorillas and chimpanzees allows an analysis of niche separation between these two closely related species. Qualitatively, their diets are similar, being dominated by an equally diverse array of fruit species complemented with vegetative plant parts, seeds and insects. Gorillas eat more vegetative plant parts than do chimpanzees, but niche separation is most obvious in periods of fruit scarcity when the two species show different strategies that reduce competition for food. Their abilities to overcome mechanical and physical plant defences appear to differ, as gorillas are able to subsist entirely on abundant vegetative foods. Chimpanzees show social adjustment, foraging alone or in small groups, to reduce intra-specific competition for scarce fruit resources. Thus it seems that subtle physiological differences have far-reaching repercussions, defining potential evolutionary pathways for social organization and allowing sufficient niche separation between species.

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