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Day length, latitude and behavioural (in)flexibility in baboons (Papio cynocephalus ursinus).

Hill, R. A. and Barrett, L. and Gaynor, D. and Weingrill, T. and Dixon, P. and Payne, H. and Henzi, S. P. (2003) 'Day length, latitude and behavioural (in)flexibility in baboons (Papio cynocephalus ursinus).', Behavioral ecology and sociobiology., 53 (5). pp. 278-286.


Annual cycles in day length are an important consideration in any analysis of seasonal behaviour patterns, since they determine the period within which obligate diurnal or nocturnal animals must conduct all of their essential activities. As a consequence, seasonal variation in day length may represent an ecological constraint on behaviour, since short winter days restrict the length of the time available for foraging in diurnal species (with long summer days, and thus short nights, a potential constraint for nocturnal species). This paper examines monthly variation in activity patterns over a 4- year study of chacma baboons (Papio cynocephalus ursinus) at De Hoop Nature Reserve, South Africa. Time spent feeding, moving, grooming and resting are all significant positive functions of day length, even before chance events such as disease epidemics and climatically mediated home range shifts have been accounted for. These results provide strong support for the idea that day length acts as an ecological constraint by limiting the number of daylight hours and thus restricting the active period at certain times of year. Day length variation also has important implications across populations. Interpopulation variation in resting time, and non-foraging activity in general, is a positive function of latitude, with long summer days at temperate latitudes apparently producing an excess of time that cannot profitably be devoted to additional foraging or social activity. However, it is the short winter days that are probably of greatest importance, since diurnal animals must still fulfil their foraging requirements despite the restricted number of daylight hours and elevated thermoregulatory requirements at this time of year. Ultimately this serves to restrict the maximum ecologically tolerable group sizes of baboon populations with increasing distance from the equator. Seasonal variation in day length is thus an important ecological constraint on animal behaviour that has important implications both within and between populations, and future studies at non-equatorial latitudes must clearly be mindful of its importance.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Behaviour, Ecological constraints, Group size, Seasonality, Time budgets.
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Record Created:17 May 2007
Last Modified:30 Jul 2010 16:20

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