PDF Socioecological influences on the dispersal of female mountain gorillas - evidence of a second folivore paradox

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Upload date 29 Jan 2015
Contributor Djuma Nsanzimana
Geographical coverage Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park,
Keywords Gorillas, Dispersal, Folivore paradox, Socioecological model, Infanticide, Predation, Feeding competition,
Release date 29/01/2015
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Socioecological models indicate that the group structure and female dispersal patterns of primates are determined primarily by the abundance and distribution of food, predation pressures, and infanticide risks. In response to those influences, females of folivorous primates are considered relatively free to disperse into groups with the optimal size and structure. Yet some folivores live in small groups despite a potentially higher risk of predation, an apparent inconsistency known as the folivore paradox. This paper examines the female dispersal of a folivorous primate, the Virunga mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas currently have no natural predators, but this species presents a different version of the folivore paradox: why do 50–60% of females reside in smaller one-male groups despite a higher risk of infanticide? In this study, females left one-male groups more frequently than multimale groups, but transfer destinations were not consistently biased toward multimale groups and those groups did not have higher immigration rates. We found no evidence of dispersal to avoid feeding competition within large groups, even as they have become three to five times larger than average. Thus, the lack of a consistent bias toward multimale groups was not because they are typically larger than one-male groups. Instead, the apparent inconsistencies may reflect limited female transfer opportunities, other influences on dispersal, and possibly an evolutionary disequilibrium in which current behavior does not optimize fitness.