More omnivore dilemmas: Seasonal diet changes can cause reproductive stress in primates

Nov 28, 2012
This is a blue monkey. Credit: Steffen Foerster

When seasonal changes affect food availability, omnivores like blue monkeys adapt by changing their diets, but such nutritional changes may impact female reproduction, according to research published November 28 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Steffen Foerster from Barnard College, and colleagues from Columbia University and the Smithsonian Institution.

The authors found that levels of fecal glucocorticoids (fGC), a stress marker, increased when female monkeys shifted their diet towards lower quality fallback foods, whereas the levels decreased when the monkeys had access to preferred foods like insects, fruits and young leaves.

They also found that lactating females and those in the later stages of pregnancy showed greater increases in the stress marker than females who were not in these stages of reproduction. According to the authors, their results suggest that these seasonal changes in may affect inter-birth intervals in these primates, and also affect the timing of infant independence from mothers.

Foerster adds, "While it was interesting to find that even subtle changes in dietary composition may have strong effects on female reproductive decisions, it is equally noteworthy that was almost entirely absent from blue monkey societies. Our study makes the point that integrating behavioral, ecological, and hormonal measures can reveal adaptive behavioral and that would otherwise be difficult to discern."

Explore further: Offspring benefit from mum sending the right message

More information: Foerster S, Cords M, Monfort SL (2012) Seasonal Energetic Stress in a Tropical Forest Primate: Proximate Causes and Evolutionary Implications. PLoS ONE 7(11): e50108. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050108

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study reports changing to a low-fat diet can induce stress

Apr 18, 2007

Changing one's diet to lose weight is often difficult. There may be physical and psychological effects from a changed diet that reduce the chances for success. With nearly 65% of the adult population currently classified ...

Monkey economy works

Jul 13, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A monkey that has acquired the sole power to hand out apples is generously rewarded with grooming sessions by the other monkeys in its group. But as soon as another monkey can hand out apples ...

Female chimps keep the bullies at bay

Mar 07, 2007

Female chimpanzees may have found a fool-proof way to ensure they mate with only the highest ranking males, namely those with important social and physical characteristics that their offspring may inherit, according to a ...

Recommended for you

Offspring benefit from mum sending the right message

8 minutes ago

(Phys.org) —Researchers have uncovered a previously unforeseen interaction between the sexes which reveals that offspring survival is affected by chemical signals emitted from the females' eggs.

Lemurs match scent of a friend to sound of her voice

14 hours ago

Humans aren't alone in their ability to match a voice to a face—animals such as dogs, horses, crows and monkeys are able to recognize familiar individuals this way too, a growing body of research shows.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Ranchers benefit from long-term grazing data

Scientists studying changes in the Earth's surface rely on 40 years of Landsat satellite imaging, but South Dakota ranchers making decisions about grazing their livestock can benefit from 70 years of data ...

Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects—specifically, ...

Unlocking secrets of new solar material

(Phys.org) —A new solar material that has the same crystal structure as a mineral first found in the Ural Mountains in 1839 is shooting up the efficiency charts faster than almost anything researchers have ...