Seasonal variation in diet and nutrition of the northern-most population of Rhinopithecus roxellana

Rong Hou, Shujun He, Fan Wu, Colin A. Chapman, Ruliang Pan, Paul A. Garber, Songtao Guo, Baoguo Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is a great deal of spatial and temporal variation in the availability and nutritional quality of foods eaten by animals, particularly in temperate regions where winter brings lengthy periods of leaf and fruit scarcity. We analyzed the availability, dietary composition, and macronutrients of the foods eaten by the northern-most golden snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana) population in the Qinling Mountains, China to understand food choice in a highly seasonal environment dominated by deciduous trees. During the warm months between April and November, leaves are consumed in proportion to their availability, while during the leaf-scarce months between December and March, bark and leaf/flower buds comprise most of their diet. When leaves dominated their diet, golden snub-nosed monkeys preferentially selected leaves with higher ratios of crude protein to acid detergent fiber. While when leaves were less available, bark and leaf/flower buds that were high in nonstructural carbohydrates and energy, and low in acid detergent fiber were selected. Southern populations of golden snub-nosed monkey can turn to eating lichen, however, the population studied here in this lichen-absent area have adapted to their cool deciduous habitat by instead consuming buds and bark. Carbohydrate and energy rich foods appear to be the critical resources required for the persistence of this species in temperate habitat. The dietary flexibility of these monkeys, both among seasons and populations, likely contributes to their wide distribution over a range of habitats and environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere22755
JournalAmerican journal of primatology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • diet selection
  • dietary switching
  • folivore
  • leaf scarcity
  • nutritional ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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