The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Comparison of the metabolic costs of feeding in a range of food types in small-bodied primates


1Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University, 2Structural Biology, West Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine, 3Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University School of Medicine

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What is the metabolic cost of feeding in primates? These costs reflect the mechanical environment during feeding and may be an important selection pressure on craniofacial structure and daily energy use. At present, however, almost no metabolic measurements exist for primate feeding. We present new data on the metabolic cost of feeding in several small-bodied primates. These data are used to test the hypothesis that the metabolic cost of feeding is positively correlated with food properties and food preparation prior to mastication.

Data were collected for Loris tardigradus (n=1), Microcebus murinus (n=2), Hapalemur griseus (n=4) and Saimiri sciureus (n=3). Rates of O2 consumption and CO2 production were measured while each individual sat in a respirometry chamber and ate. Comparisons were made for foods varying in size and material properties (mealworms, fig, carrot, bamboo, and almond). The cost of each feeding bout was subtracted from resting metabolism to determine mass-specific, net feeding cost (W/kg).

The lowest feeding costs were for mealworm in Loris and Microcebus (0.4-1.8 W/kg). Large, soft figs had similar feeding costs compared to smaller but relatively tough foods in Saimiri (fig mean=3.4 W/kg, carrot mean=3.3 W/kg, almond mean=3.5 W/kg). The feeding cost for whole objects was substantially higher (>20%) than the cost of chewing alone (e.g., almond whole vs. thin slices) indicating that food preparation is an important contributor to feeding costs. These results suggest that food preparation, size, and material properties correlate positively with the metabolic costs of feeding.

Supported by NSF BCS-1062239

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