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Primates. 2013 Apr;54(2):137-46. doi: 10.1007/s10329-012-0336-0. Epub 2012 Nov 29.

Seasonal variation of diet and time budget of Eastern hoolock gibbons (Hoolock leuconedys) living in a northern montane forest.

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Institute of Eastern-Himalaya Biodiversity Research, Dali University, Dali 671000, Yunnan, People's Republic of China.


Most gibbons dwell in the tropical forests of Southeastern Asia, but eastern hoolock gibbons (Hoolock leuconedys) survive in high montane forest ranging from 1,600 to 2,700 m a.s.l. in Gaoligongshan (>24°30'N), Yunnan, China. To assess the behavioral adaptations of hoolock gibbons to the montane forest, we related temperature and food availability within the habitat to the seasonal behavioral patterns of a family group and a solitary female between August 2010 and September 2011 in Nankang, Gaoligongshan National Nature Reserve. The maximum temperature was 29.2 °C and the minimum temperature was -0.3 °C during the period. The monthly mean temperature was <10 °C between December and February, making Nankang the coldest gibbon habitat reported so far. Nonfig fruit and fig availability declined to nearly zero in cold months. The family group increased resting and decreased travel and social behaviors when the monthly mean temperature was low. Compared with other gibbon populations, the hoolock gibbons spent proportionally less time feeding on figs and other fruit than other gibbon populations except Nomascus concolor and Symphalangus syndactylus. Only 36 species of plants provided nonfig fruit or figs, which is less than the number of fruit species consumed by any other gibbon population observed during a similar period of time (about 1 year). Hoolock gibbons shifted their diet to leaves and increased feeding time when fruit was not available. We conclude that diet flexibility and an energy-conserving strategy during the cold season when fruit is scarce have enabled the hoolock gibbons to survive in a northern montane forest.

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