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Soil-Eating by Red Leaf Monkeys (Presbytis rubicunda) in Sabah, Northern Borneo

A. G. Davies and I. C. Baillie
Biotropica
Vol. 20, No. 3 (Sep., 1988), pp. 252-258
DOI: 10.2307/2388241
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2388241
Page Count: 7
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Soil-Eating by Red Leaf Monkeys (Presbytis rubicunda) in Sabah, Northern Borneo
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Abstract

A group of Presbytis rubicunda (red leaf) monkeys was observed for 13 months in the lowland dipterocarp forest at Sepilok, Sabah, northern Borneo. The main items in the animals' annual diet were young leaves, seeds, whole fruits, and flowers. Large, dry seeds made up over 85 percent of the diet in 2 months, but young leaves, fruits, and flowers were generally eaten when large seeds were unavailable. Soil eating was observed on nine occasions. The soil was always collected by breaking lumps off termitaria and never from the forest floor. Analytical comparison of termite-mound and forest-floor soils showed that both had similar clay contents, but the termitaria soil was of higher pH and had higher levels of the main cationic nutrients and lower levels of labile aluminium. The geophagy was observed at times when different items predominated in the diet. It was noted when the dietary items were highly digestible and contained few tannins, indicating that geophagy need not be primarily for tannin absorption, although it might have helped to absorb toxins. The main benefits are more likely to be the alleviation of digestive disorders, such as forestomach acidosis, and the supplementation of mineral nutrient uptake in a generally oligotrophic environment. There is no reason why geophagy should have a single function; it may serve different functions at different times.

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