Zoological Research ›› 2018, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (4): 255-265.doi: 10.24272/j.issn.2095-8137.2018.045

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Ecology and social system of northern gibbons living in cold seasonal forests

Zhen-Hua Guan1, Chang-Yong Ma2, Han-Lan Fei2, Bei Huang3, Wen-He Ning3, Qing-Yong Ni4, Xue-Long Jiang3, Peng-Fei Fan2,*   

  1. 1 Yunnan Academy of Biodiversity, Forest Disaster Warning and Control Key Laboratory, Southwest Forestry University, Kunming Yunnan
    650224, China
    2 School of Life Sciences, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou Guangdong 510275, China.
    3 State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and Evolution, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming Yunnan
    650223, China
    4 College of Animal Sciences and Technology, Sichuan Agricultural University, Chengdu Sichuan 611130, China
  • Online:2018-07-18 Published:2018-05-11
  • Contact: Peng-Fei Fan,E-mail:fanpf@mail.sysu.edu.cn E-mail:fanpf@mail.sysu.edu.cn
  • Supported by:


Gibbons in China represent the northernmost margin of present day gibbon species distribution (around N25°). Compared to tropical habitats, northern gibbon habitats are characterized by low temperatures and remarkable seasonal variation in fruit abundance. How gibbons adapt to their cold and seasonal habitats and what ecological factors affect their sociality are key questions for understanding their ecology and social system evolution, the elucidation of which will contribute to the conservation of these special populations/species. According to preliminary short-term studies, northern gibbons consume more leaves and use larger home ranges than tropical gibbons. Interestingly, some Nomascus groups consist of more than one adult female. However, these preliminary results are not well understood or incorporated into current socio-ecological theories regarding gibbon species. To better understand northern gibbons, our team has systematically studied three habituated groups of Nomascus concolor, three groups of N. nasutus, and two habituated groups of Hoolock tianxing since 2002. In this paper, we stress the challenges facing gibbons living in northern habitats and summarize their behavioral adaptations to their harsh environments. We also describe the northern gibbon social system and discuss the potential relationships between their ecology and sociality. Finally, we highlight future research questions related to northern gibbons in China.

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