Dietary and Foraging Strategies of Baboons [and Discussion]

A. Whiten, R. W. Byrne, R. A. Barton, P. G. Waterman, S. P. Henzi, K. Hawkes, E. M. Widdowson, S. A. Altmann, K. Milton, R. I. M. Dunbar


As large-bodied savannah primates, baboons have long been of special interest to students of human evolution: many different populations have been studied and dietary comparisons among them are becoming possible. Baboons' foraging strategies can be shown to combine high degrees of flexibility and breadth with selectivity. In this paper we develop and test multivariate models of the basis of diet selection for populations of montane and savannah baboons. Food selection is positively related to protein and lipid content and negatively to fibre, phenolics and alkaloids. Seasonal changes in dietary criteria predicted by these rules are tested and confirmed. Although nutritional bottlenecks occur at intervals, a comparison between long-term nutrient intakes in four different populations indicates convergence on lower degrees of variation than exist in superficial foodstuff profiles.

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