1Department of Biology, Texas State University, 2Director of Conservation, Minnesota Zoo, 3Department of Environmental Science and Policy, St. Edward's University, 4Department of Anthropology, McGill University, 5Department of Nutritional Science and Toxicology, University of California, Berkeley, 6Department of Anthropology, Hunter College, CUNY
March 26, 2015 9:00, Grand Ballroom E/F/G
Alterations in diet have occurred throughout the evolutionary history of primates, including the Homo lineage. Currently, a distinct change in the modern human diet is occurring with an increase of soy consumption in many parts of the world. However, the physiological and behavioral implications of this change are unclear. Soy possesses phytoestrogens, which are estrogen mimics that are known to have effects on reproductive physiology and behavior in vertebrates, but effects on wild primates are not well understood. We observed the behavioral activities of eight black-and-white colobus monkey troops (Colobus guereza) living in Kibale National Park, Uganda, for one year, with a focus on dietary strategies. We analyzed staple plant foods of the monkeys to determine estrogenic activity using transient transfection assays and examined intergroup variation in the consumption of estrogenic plants across the eight groups. The percent of diet coming from these estrogenic plant items varied from 1.5% to 6.2%. To test for behavioral effects of phytoestrogen consumption, we examined the relationship between percent of diet from estrogenic plants and percent of time spent grooming and self-grooming, with no significant trends detected. As effects of estrogenic plant consumption occur at the individual level, future research will examine changes in hormone levels before and after consumption of the identified estrogenic plant items. By further examining variation in phytoestrogen consumption both within and across primate species, we hope to clarify the role of these estrogenic compounds in the evolutionary history of modern humans.