Sampling Effort in Neotropical Primate Diet Studies: Collective Gains and Underlying Geographic and Taxonomic Biases
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Primates are among the most observable and best studied mammalian orders, yet the distribution of sampling effort by primatologists has inevitably concentrated on a few genera and a limited number of study sites. We present the first systematic review of sampling effort and associated biases in wild primate field research, focusing on dietary studies across the Neotropics. Our literature review of all 24 neotropical primate ecospecies spans 42 years (1969–2011) and covers 290 dietary studies at 164 study sites across 17 countries. We use a standardized measure of sampling effort to assimilate data sets derived from multiple methodologies and attempt to understand the distribution of effort (total equivalent to 193,804 h) using geographic variables and primate species traits. Results indicate that there are both geographic and taxonomic biases, with sampling effort generally skewed towards large-bodied species occupying large geographic ranges, and concentrated at a select few primatology research hubs. We also note that full primate assemblages at any given study site are rarely investigated. Our assessment thus reveals severely undersampled primate taxa and geographic regions that must be considered in future research. Current biases could be ameliorated by deliberately targeting poorly studied genera anywhere in their geographic distribution, well-studied genera in poorly studied regions, and striving to study multiple sympatric taxa within a single site. Although continued inequalities in sampling effort are probably inevitable, this study shows that this need not inhibit successful compilations and meta-analyses, provided that adequate data on feeding records and sampling effort can be made available.
KeywordsDiet Feeding ecology Mesoamerica Platyrrhini South America
This study was funded by a NERC doctoral studentship to JEH. We wish to thank all researchers who have contributed to the current knowledge of primate field studies across the Neotropics. We thank J. Setchell, E. Heymann, and four anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. This paper was co-written during a CAPES-funded visiting fellowship by CAP to Museu Goeldi, Brazil.
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