The 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2016)

Nutritional composition of plant foods consumed by the chimpanzees of Gombe National Park, Tanzania


1Department of Anthropology, The George Washington University, 2Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota, 3Nutrition Laboratory, Smithsonian Institution, National Zoological Park

April 16, 2016 , Atrium Ballroom A/B Add to calendar

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are considered ripe fruit specialists- yet like most living apes, including humans, they consume a variety of plant and animal foods. Both chimpanzees and bonobos exhibit considerable variation in dietary breadth between populations in different habitats, as well as seasonal variation within populations. Though often used as referential models for understanding the behavioral ecology of early hominins, comprehensive nutritional data on wild Pan foods are lacking from all but a few long-term research sites. We collected representative samples of 145 different plant food parts consumed by Kasekela chimpanzees of Gombe National Park, Tanzania over 11 months (June 2014 – April 2015) to determine their energy content and macronutrient composition. Moisture content varied from 4.8-88.6%. On a dry matter basis (DMB), values ranged as follows: gross energy (32.3-81.3 kcal/100g), neutral detergent fiber (NDF) (0.3-86.0%), acid detergent fiber (ADF) (0.2-66.1%), crude fat (0.3-70.1%), crude protein (corrected for fiber-bound N) (1.8-31.3%), and ash (0.9-22.0%). On a DMB, the overlap in macronutrient values between broad food part categories (e.g., crude protein content in “fruit” versus “leaves”) was high, suggesting that assessments of chimpanzee dietary niches based on such categories can obscure important variation in dietary quality. Values for replicates of the same food parts collected from different locations or at different times suggest that geographic and temporal variation in macronutrient composition is generally low. We discuss our results in comparison to published datasets from other long-term sites, and highlight applications and directions for future research.

Funding and logistical support were provided by a GWU/SI Opportunity Research Grant, The GWU Columbia College of Arts & Sciences, and The Jane Goodall Institute.