Inter- and intraspecific variation in the diets of sympatric siamang (hylobates syndactylus) and lar gibbons (hylobates lar)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Studies of the siamang (Hylobates syndactylus continentis) and the lar gibbon (Hylobates lar lar) where they co-occur in mainland Asia have demonstrated interspecific dietary segregation based on body size and have suggested that observed levels of frugivory represent metabolically based maxima for these species. I studied sympatric groups of siamang (H. s. syndactylus) and lar gibbons (H. I. vestitus) at Ketambe in northern Sumatra (Indonesia) in order to assess the magnitude of within- and between-species variation in diets. The insular subspecies are considerably more frugivorous (60-70% of feeding time) than mainland conspecifics (35-50%). This is primarily because Sumatran hylobatids spend about twice as much time (approx. 45% of feeding) eating fig fruits (Ficus spp., Moraceae). A higher density of figs at Ketambe (compared to Kuala Lompat) may account for this behavioral difference. Enhanced frugivory has been achieved at the expense of folivory, which is much reduced in Sumatra - especially in H. lar (4% of diet) - and is limited almost entirely to immature foliage. The expected decline in protein intake resulting from diminished folivory in Sumatra may be counterbalanced by observed increases in insectivory, which is especially pronounced in lar gibbons. Interspecific dietary segregation emerges most clearly in how individuals of each species supplement their similarly fig-dominated diets. Siamang rely more on immature foliage - primarily from lianas, which generate young leaves more reliably and abundantly than trees do. Conversely, lar gibbons exploit the pulpy fruit of trees and lianas more heavily than siamang do. This general pattern occurs where the two species coexist in Malaysia, thereby suggesting a substantive interspecific difference that is somewhat greater in the insular populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-327
Number of pages7
JournalFolia Primatologica
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


  • Diets
  • Feeding ecology
  • Hylobates lar
  • Hylobates syndactylus
  • Malaysia
  • Sumatra

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Inter- and intraspecific variation in the diets of sympatric siamang (hylobates syndactylus) and lar gibbons (hylobates lar)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this