Energetics of feeding, social behavior, and life history in non-human primates

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Energy is a variable of key importance to a wide range of research in primate behavioral ecology, life history, and conservation. However, obtaining detailed data on variation in energetic condition, and its biological consequences, has been a considerable challenge. In the past 20 years, tremendous strides have been made towards non-invasive methods for monitoring the physiology of animals in their natural environment. These methods provide detailed, individualized data about energetic condition, as well as energy allocations to growth, reproduction, and somatic health. In doing so, they add much-needed resolution by which to move beyond correlative studies to research programs that can discriminate causes from effects and disaggregate multiple correlated features of the social and physical environment. In this review, I describe the conceptual and methodological approaches for studying primate energetics. I then discuss the core questions about primate feeding ecology, social behavior, and life history that can benefit from physiological studies, highlighting the ways in which recent research has done so. Among these are studies that test, and often refute, common assumptions about how feeding ecology shapes primate biology, and those that reveal proximate associations between energetics and reproductive strategies.

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