World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0001251524
Reproduction Date:

Title: Folivore  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Lemur, Subfossil lemur, Quaternary prehistory/Natural world articles, Paleontology/Natural world articles, Guild (ecology)
Collection: Folivores, Herbivory
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


In zoology, a folivore is a herbivore that specializes in eating leaves. Mature leaves contain a high proportion of hard-to-digest cellulose, less energy than other types of foods, and often toxic compounds.[1] For this reason folivorous animals tend to have long digestive tracts and slow metabolisms. Many enlist the help of symbiotic bacteria to release the nutrients in their diet. Additionally, as has been observed in folivorous primates, they exhibit a strong preference towards immature leaves, which tend to be easier to masticate, tend to be higher in energy, protein, lower in fibre and poisons than more mature fibrous leaves.[2]


  • Evolution 1
  • Folivory and flight 2
  • Arboreal folivores 3
  • Primates 4
  • Examples 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Herbivory has evolved several times among different groups of animals. The first vertebrates were piscivores, then insectivores, carnivores and finally herbivores.[3] Since a complex set of adaptations was necessary for feeding on highly fibrous plant materials (structural modifications to the teeth, jaws, and digestive tract) and only a small proportion of extant tetrapods are obligate herbivores, it could be that early tetrapods made the transition to fully fledged herbivory by way of omnivory.[3]

Folivory and flight

It has been observed that folivory is extremely rare among flying vertebrates.[4] Morton (1978) attributed this to the fact that leaves are heavy, slow to digest, and contain little energy relative to other foods.[4] The hoatzin is an example of a flighted, folivorous bird.

Some bats are partially folivorous; their method of deriving nourishment from leaves, according to Lowry (1989), is to chew up the leaves, swallowing the sap and spitting out the remainder.[5]

Arboreal folivores

Arboreal mammalian folivores, such as sloths, koalas, and some species of monkeys and lemurs, tend to be large and climb cautiously.[6] Similarities in body shape and head- and tooth-structure between early hominoids and various families of arboreal folivores have been advanced as evidence that early homonoids were also folivorous.[6]


Standard ecological theory predicts relatively large group sizes for folivorous primates, as large groups offer better collective defense against predators and they face little competition for food among each other. It has been observed that these animals nevertheless frequently live in small groups. Explanations offered for this apparent paradox include social factors such as increased incidence of infanticide in large groups.[7]

Folivorous primates are relatively rare in the New World, the primary exception being howler monkeys. One explanation that has been offered is that fruiting and leafing occur simultaneously among New World plants. However a 2001 study found no evidence for simultaneous fruiting and leafing at most sites, apparently disproving this hypothesis.[8]


Examples of folivorous animals include:

An okapi

See also


  1. ^ Jones, S., Martin, R., & Pilbeam, D. (1994) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Sahney, S., Benton, M.J. & Falcon-Lang, H.J. (2010). "Rainforest collapse triggered Pennsylvanian tetrapod diversification in Euramerica" (PDF). Geology 38 (12): 1079–1082.  
  4. ^ a b Do the Power Requirements of Flapping Flight Constrain Folivory in Flying Animals? R. Dudley, G. J. Vermeij Functional Ecology, Vol. 6, No. 1 (1992), pp. 101-104
  5. ^ Folivory in Bats: An Adaptation Derived from Frugivory by T. H. Kunz and K. A. Ingalls; Functional Ecology, Vol. 8, No. 5 (Oct., 1994), pp. 665-668
  6. ^ a b Cautious climbing and folivory: a model of hominoid differentation E. E. Sarmiento1 in Human Evolution Volume 10, Number 4, August, 1995
  7. ^ Competition and group size in Thomas's langurs (Presbytis thomasi): the folivore paradox revisited R. Steenbeek and Carel P. van Schaik: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Volume 49, Numbers 2-3 / January, 2001; Print ISSN: 0340-5443; Online ISSN 1432-0762
  8. ^ American Journal of Primatology; November 2001

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.