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Here, we focus on the question of "what influences the size of groups primates choose to live in? Towards an ecological solution to the folivore paradox: Patch depletion as an indicator of within-group scramble competition in red colobus.
" Primates are particularly useful taxa to address this question because their group sizes are highly variable, not only within, but also between species. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 59, 185-190 (2005).
One of the major theoretical contributions made by studying primates is an understanding of what influences the nature of complex variation in social structure and organizations. Primate group size and socioecological models: Do folivores really play by different rules?
Underlying this is a set of theoretical developments examining why animals live in groups in the first place and why groups are of a particular size.
Primate groups can vary in size from 1 to more than 800.
It follows that an increase in group size will increase the area that must be covered to find adequate food supplies. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 48, 93-109 (2000).
Various researchers have suggested that grouping confers such predictable benefits (Alexander 1974, van Schaik 1983) that differences in group size can be explained by the disadvantages (Wrangham et al. The most widely accepted potential cost of grouping is thought to be a reduction in foraging efficiency. When females should contest for food: Testing hypotheses about resource density, distribution, size and quality with Hanuman langurs (Presbytis entellus). Infanticide of a newborn black-and-white colobus monkey (Colobus guereza) in Kibale National Park, Uganda.
Being with other individuals with the same dietary requirements means that animals either fight over food (contest competition), or one animal in a group beats another to the food, thus when the second animal comes to an area there is simply no food left (scramble competition, Janson & van Schaik 1988). Boesch (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006) 263-284. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 42, 225-237 (1998).
Thus individuals must travel further and expend more energy if they are in a large group, than if they forage in a smaller group.
In both of these situations it is thought that competition over food leads to animals having to travel farther. The logic behind this argument is relatively simple.