Thursday, 14 August 2014

College of Science Postgraduate Seminar Series 19th August 2014

College of Science Postgraduate Seminar Series - Summer 2014 

19th August 2014 - 1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace)

The ecological determinants of baboon troop movements at local and continental scales

Caspian Johnson

(PhD student, Swansea University, UK)

Caspian is a final year PhD student under the supervision of Andy King and Dan Forman. He studied Zoology as an undergraduate here at Swansea University, obtaining a first class honours in 2011. He began his PhD by spending a year in Tanzania collecting data with the Ugalla Primate Project 

How an animal moves through its environment directly impacts its survival, reproduction, and thus biological fitness. A basic measure of describing how an individual (or group) travels through its environment is Day Path Length (DPL), i.e., the distance travelled in a 24-hour period. Updating a classic study by Dunbar (1992), we investigate the ecological determinants of mean DPL for 39 baboon (Papio spp.) troops across 20 different populations. We find that a measure of plant productivity, anthropogenic influence and local primate richness all have a significant and negative effect on DPL, whilst group size has a significant positive effect. These results are in accordance with previous work indicating baboons show variation in DPLs as a consequence of ecological dissimilarity across their range. We then explore DPLs and Movement Trajectories (MTs: the speed and tortuosity of travel) for yellow baboons (Papio cynocephalus) in the Issa Valley of western Tanzania. We find that Issa baboons travel further than our inter-population model predicts, and troops moved significantly slower, and over shorter distances, on warmer days.  We also found that the baboons moved significantly slower and took more direct travel routes when fruit was abundant, but fruit abundance did not predict total variation in DPL and we did not find any seasonal effects upon DPL or MT. Overall, this study emphasises the ability of baboons to adapt their ranging behaviour contributing to their overall success as a genus, and highlights how investigations of movement patterns at different spatial scales can provide a fuller investigation of the ecological determinants of movement.

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