Valentina Carrai

Università di Pisa, Pisa, Tuscany, Italy

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Publications (4)7.85 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The ecological factors contributing to the evolution of tropical vertebrate communities are still poorly understood. Primate communities of the tropical Americas have fewer folivorous but more frugivorous genera than tropical regions of the Old World and especially many more frugivorous genera than Madagascar. Reasons for this phenomenon are largely unexplored. We developed the hypothesis that Neotropical fruits have higher protein concentrations than fruits from Madagascar and that the higher representation of frugivorous genera in the Neotropics is linked to high protein concentrations in fruits. Low fruit protein concentrations in Madagascar would restrict the evolution of frugivores in Malagasy communities. We reviewed the literature for nitrogen concentrations in fruits from the Neotropics and from Madagascar, and analyzed fruits from an additional six sites in the Neotropics and six sites in Madagascar. Fruits from the Neotropical sites contain significantly more nitrogen than fruits from the Madagascar sites. Nitrogen concentrations in New World fruits are above the concentrations to satisfy nitrogen requirements of primates, while they are at the lower end or below the concentrations to cover primate protein needs in Madagascar. Fruits at most sites in the Neotropics contain enough protein to satisfy the protein needs of primates. Thus, selection pressure to develop new adaptations for foods that are difficult to digest (such as leaves) may have been lower in the Neotropics than in Madagascar. The low nitrogen concentrations in fruits from Madagascar may contribute to the almost complete absence of frugivorous primate species on this island.
    PLoS ONE 01/2009; 4(12):e8253. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: According to optimal foraging theory, herbivores can base food choice mainly on the quality or the quantity of food, or both. Among herbivorous primates, folivorous lemurs living in the highly seasonal environment of Madagascar have to cope with the shortage of high-quality food during the dry season, at least in deciduous forests. We studied (Verreaux's sifaka) in Kirindy, western Madagascar, to understand the influence of dry season and food quality and quantity on behavioral patterns and feeding strategy (qualitative vs. quantitative dietary choice) of a folivorous lemur in a deciduous forest. We followed 7 groups (4 groups/period; 3 individuals/group/month) during 4 periods of the year (wet season: February–March; early/middle/late dry season: May–June; July–September; October–November). We collected samples of plants eaten and examined behavioral and feeding patterns, considering food quality (macronutrients, proteins/fibers ratio, and tannins) and abundance. We found 1) a significant reduction of home range, core area, and daily path length from the wet to the dry season, possibly related to dietary change and 2) a daily period of inactivity in the dry season for energy conservation. Regarding the feeding strategy, Kirindy sifakas showed 1) high variation and selection in choosing food items and 2) a dietary choice based mainly on quality: Kirindy sifakas fed on plant species/families independently from their abundance and tannins represented a feeding deterrent during the dry season. Overall, behavioral and dietary adaptations allow Kirindy sifakas to overcome the shortage of high-quality food in the lean period.
    International Journal of Primatology 07/2006; 27(4):1001-1022. · 1.79 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Termite soil ingestion has been observed in leaf‐eating primates and associated with olfactory attraction, mineral supplement and/or alleviation of gastro‐intestinal upset [Krishnamani and Mahaney, 2000; Voros et al., 2001; De Souza et al., 2002]. Geophagy in sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi), specialised folivorous indriids [Fleagle, 1999; Carrai et al., 2003], is reported here for the first time. By considering frequency, timing and type of substrate involved in geophagy, a new proximate factor for soil eating is suggested.
    Folia Primatologica 01/2005; 76(2):119-22. · 1.04 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In this study we report preliminary data on the consumption of tannin-rich plants by sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi verreauxi) living in the Kirindy forest, western Madagascar. Sifakas spent most of their time feeding on only a few plant species. The tannin intake during the period between the pregnancy and birth season was significantly higher in pregnant females or females with lactating infants than in non-reproductive females and males. These periparturient females secured a larger proportion of condensed tannins by short feeding bouts on plants not included in the group's limited preferred food species. The measured increase in tannin intake is puzzling in light of the fact that tannins are commonly known for their protein-binding properties. Since protein demands are highest in pregnant and lactating females, possible medicinal benefits of tannin ingestion are considered. Tannin consumption is associated with an increase in body weight and stimulation of milk secretion. Veterinarians administer tannins as an astringent, anti-hemorrhagic and anti-abortive. Their high potential as an alternative anthelminthic has also recently been recognized. Thus, when viewed as self-medicating behavior, controlled increase in tannin intake could have multiple prophylactic advantages for females during the periparturient period. The high selectivity in their plant choice, and the presence of unusual feeding habits by a particular group of individuals (females with infants) limited in time (birth season), suggests that an increase in tannin ingestion may be a self-medicating behavior with multiple directly adaptive benefits to female reproduction.
    Primates 02/2003; 44(1):61-6. · 1.29 Impact Factor