Diet of Cercopithecus nictitans and investigation into its potential to act as a surrogate disperser in disturbed Afromontane forests.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Increasingly, the world’s tropical forest are under threat. Climate change and a booming global population means that deforestation and degradation are occurring at alarming rates. Measures to combat this are often costly and suffer from the need of continued human input and monitoring. Encouraging or creating plant-animal mutualisms which encourage regeneration can create a positive feedback loop perpetuating regeneration at little or no cost. In this study I investigated the diet of three troops of Cercopithecus nictitans living in Ngel Nyaki Nigeria over three years to investigate how they could potentially help regenerate this fragmented and degraded. A particular threat to this forest is the loss of larger bodied disperser. I wished to determine if C. nictitans ecological flexibility would allow it to fill such a role. As it is a largely understudied species, I first determined its diet comparing years of differing availability to ensure I captured the full breadth of their diet. I found that C. nictitans ate a varied diet, which was responsive to different causes of scarcity. Males and females ate different diets, with females eating more leaves and less fruit. During periods of extreme scarcity C. nictitans increased its consumption of arthropods, a finding which suggests it may predate on less seeds than previously thought. I then used this data to investigate indicators of effective seed dispersal; overlap, dietary niche and preference. I found mixed results, with findings suggesting that C. nictitans eats a large amount of large fruited species but that which species it ate was variable. Investigations into selection for seed characters found a constant preference for fruit with many, small, oval seeds, however as food availability decreased C. nictatans showed an increase in consumption of fruit with one, large, oval seed. Which has positive implications for its role as an effective seed disperser at Ngel Nyaki. Finally, I investigated fallback foods for C. nictitans to aid in its conservation, and help better understand variation in diet. I however failed to find any fallback foods. Overall this study suggests that C. nictitans eats a flexible diet, involving many large fruited species. Its diet is highly variable, so it seems unlikely it is dispersing many seed effectively from the perspective of the plant species. These same characteristics may make it an effective disperser from the perspective of the forest. To determine this requires more study, focusing on species indentified in the current study.