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  Journey to

  Feeding Ecology in Apes and other Primates:

Ecological, Physiological, and Behavioral Aspects

organized by Gottfried Hohmann, Martha Robbins & Christophe Boesch

  • Feeding ecology is perhaps one of the most important components of a species'; biology because it relates to the survival, reproduction, population dynamics, habitat requirements, and degree of sociality for any animal. Over the last four decades, many field studies on the African and Asian apes have focused on foraging strategies, sociality, food acquisition, food processing and related topics. From these studies a complex picture of the feeding ecology of these species has emerged and perhaps more questions have been raised than answered.
  • Feeding ecology is an integral part of all models of primate socio-ecology, but there is still a debate on how well certain species fit these models.
  • Fluctuation of ecological conditions is known to affect various aspects of reproduction but it is still unclear how variation in food availability affects different reproductive parameters.
  • Understanding patterns of habitat utilization has implications for understanding energy expenditure, inter-group dynamics, inter-specific competition, and population density. However, little is known about how feeding ecology interacts with other variables that may influence ranging patterns.
  • Apes use complex techniques of food processing that are thought to be acquired by imitation, social learning and, perhaps, teaching. Therefore one may ask to what extent do the cognitive capacities of apes contribute to solving certain problems.
  • Relevant to all of the above topics is the amount of food intake in relation to food availability. Therefore a discussion of new and advanced methods that can be easily applied in a systematic fashion across field sites could contribute greatly to our ability to make comparative studies of ape feeding ecology.
  • Data on feeding ecology of contemporary apes provides a baseline for the understanding of the constitution of the diet of human ancestors. However, various aspects that are required to model the feeding behavior of early hominids remain to be studied.
  To address these and related questions from different perspectives, we are organizing a conference that brings together both field and lab scientists from different disciplines including anthropology, evolutionary biology, primatology, physiology, and biochemistry. The major goal of the meeting is to synthesize the latest research on the feeding ecology in apes and to identify avenues of future research to best understand the evolution of the diversity of feeding ecology strategies observed in the apes.

The conference will be held at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany from the 17th till the 20th of August, 2004. The conference will host about twenty-five invited speakers for oral presentations. In addition, the conference invites poster presentations on related topics.
  pdf  Download program (pdf)