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International Journal of Zoology
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 967274, 10 pages
Research Article

Figs Are More Than Fallback Foods: The Relationship between Ficus and Cebus in a Tropical Dry Forest

Department of Anthropology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW Calgary, AB, Canada T2N 1N4

Received 1 January 2011; Revised 4 April 2011; Accepted 29 July 2011

Academic Editor: Michael Thompson

Copyright © 2011 Nigel A. Parr et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In many studies on primate feeding ecology, figs (Ficus spp.) are characterized as fallback foods, utilized only when preferred sources of food are unavailable. However, for white-faced capuchin monkeys (Cebus capucinus) living in northwestern Costa Rica, figs are a consistently important resource and may increase groupwide energy intake. We investigated whether visits to figs affect ranging and behavioural patterns of capuchins. Although daily range length and average travel speed do not differ on days when fig trees are visited, capuchins spend more time in directed travel and more time stationary on “fig days”. Capuchins also increase time spent foraging for fruit and decrease time spent foraging for invertebrates on days when figs trees are visited. Capuchins experience higher energy intake and lower energy output on “fig” days. Thus, the patterns of foraging for figs support an energy-maximization strategy and constitute an important nutritional resource for capuchins.