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Development of foraging skills in two orangutan populations: needing to learn or needing to grow?


Schuppli, Caroline; Forss, Sofia; Meulman, E J M; Zweifel, Nicole; Lee, Kevin C; Rukmana, Evasari; Vogel, Erin R; van Noordwijk, M A; van Schaik, C P (2016). Development of foraging skills in two orangutan populations: needing to learn or needing to grow? Frontiers in Zoology, 13(1):43.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Orangutans have one of the slowest-paced life histories of all mammals. Whereas life-history theory suggests that the time to reach adulthood is constrained by the time needed to reach adult body size, the needing-to-learn hypothesis instead suggests that it is limited by the time needed to acquire adult-level skills. To test between these two hypotheses, we compared the development of foraging skills and growth trajectories of immature wild orangutans in two populations: at Tuanan (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii), Borneo, and Suaq Balimbing (Pongo abelii), Sumatra. We collected behavioral data on diet repertoire, feeding rates and ranging competence during focal follows, and estimated growth through non-invasive laser photogrammetry.
RESULTS: We found that adult-like diet repertoires are attained around the age of weaning and that female immatures increase their repertoire size faster than their male peers. Adult-level feeding rates of easy techniques are reached just after weaning, but several years later for more difficult techniques, albeit always before adulthood (i.e. age at first reproduction). Independent immatures had faster feeding rates for easy to process items than their mothers, with male immatures achieving faster feeding rates earlier in development relative to females. Sumatran immatures reach adult-level feeding rates 2-3 years later than their Bornean peers, in line with their higher dietary complexity and later weaning. The range-use competence of independently ranging and weaned immatures is similar to that of adult females. Body size measurements showed, immatures grow until female age of first reproduction.
CONCLUSIONS: In conclusion, unlike in humans, orangutan foraging skills are in place prior to reproduction. Growth trajectories suggest that energetic constraints, rather than skills, best explain the length of immaturity. However, skill competence for dietary independence is reached later where the adult niche is more complex, which is consistent with the relatively later weaning age with increasing brain size found generally in primates, and apes in particular.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Orangutans have one of the slowest-paced life histories of all mammals. Whereas life-history theory suggests that the time to reach adulthood is constrained by the time needed to reach adult body size, the needing-to-learn hypothesis instead suggests that it is limited by the time needed to acquire adult-level skills. To test between these two hypotheses, we compared the development of foraging skills and growth trajectories of immature wild orangutans in two populations: at Tuanan (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii), Borneo, and Suaq Balimbing (Pongo abelii), Sumatra. We collected behavioral data on diet repertoire, feeding rates and ranging competence during focal follows, and estimated growth through non-invasive laser photogrammetry.
RESULTS: We found that adult-like diet repertoires are attained around the age of weaning and that female immatures increase their repertoire size faster than their male peers. Adult-level feeding rates of easy techniques are reached just after weaning, but several years later for more difficult techniques, albeit always before adulthood (i.e. age at first reproduction). Independent immatures had faster feeding rates for easy to process items than their mothers, with male immatures achieving faster feeding rates earlier in development relative to females. Sumatran immatures reach adult-level feeding rates 2-3 years later than their Bornean peers, in line with their higher dietary complexity and later weaning. The range-use competence of independently ranging and weaned immatures is similar to that of adult females. Body size measurements showed, immatures grow until female age of first reproduction.
CONCLUSIONS: In conclusion, unlike in humans, orangutan foraging skills are in place prior to reproduction. Growth trajectories suggest that energetic constraints, rather than skills, best explain the length of immaturity. However, skill competence for dietary independence is reached later where the adult niche is more complex, which is consistent with the relatively later weaning age with increasing brain size found generally in primates, and apes in particular.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Anthropology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Language:English
Date:2016
Deposited On:23 Nov 2016 16:05
Last Modified:01 May 2018 00:36
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN:1742-9994
Additional Information:Correction to this article: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12983-017-0237-6 Frontiers in Zoology 2016 13:43
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12983-016-0178-5
PubMed ID:27708679

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