Article

Geometry of nutrition in field studies: an illustration using wild primates

Abstract and Figures

Nutritional geometry has shown the benefits of viewing nutrition in a multidimensional context, in which foraging is viewed as a process of balancing the intake and use of multiple nutrients. New insights into nutrient regulation have been generated in studies performed in a laboratory context, where accurate measures of amounts (e.g. eaten, converted to body mass, excreted) can be made and analysed using amounts-based nutritional geometry. In most field situations, however, proportional compositions (e.g. of foods, diets, faeces) are the only measures readily available, and in some cases are more relevant to the problem at hand. For this reason, a complementary geometric method was recently introduced for analysing multi-dimensional data on proportional compositions in nutritional studies, called the right-angled mixture triangle (RMT). We use literature data from field studies of primates to demonstrate how the RMT can provide insight into a variety of important concepts in nutritional ecology. We first compare the compositions of foods, using as an example primate milks collected in both the wild and the laboratory. We next compare the diets of different species of primates from the same habitat and of the same species (mountain gorillas) from two distinct forests. Subsequently, we model the relationships between the composition of gorilla diets in these two habitats and the foods that comprise these diets, showing how such analyses can provide evidence for active nutrient-specific regulation in a field context. We provide a framework to relate concepts developed in laboratory studies with field-based studies of nutrition.
Right-angled mixture triangle showing hypothetical data representing five foods (f1-f5) and the diets (i.e. combinations of foods, hollow symbols) eaten by various animals. Mixture composition: each point shows the protein (P), carbohydrate (C) and fat (F) composition of the mixture. In this model, P and C are represented on the X and Y axes, respectively. Since P, C and F sum to 100 %, stipulating values for P and C implicitly fixes the value for F. For example, since food f1 contains 20 % P and 10 % C, the value for F is 100 % − (20 + 10) % = 70 %; point f1 therefore has X:Y:Z coordinates of (20:10:70). By the same reasoning, the P:C:F coordinates for point f3 are (20:60:20). The third axis label is given in square brackets above the plot, and the value for the third variable is given in square brackets on the respective isolines for that variable. Comparing mixtures: compositional relationships between mixtures are defined by discrete vectors, or combinations of vectors: (1) points that fall on the same vertical contain the same concentration of P (e.g. f1 and f3 both have 20 % P); equivalently, points aligning on a horizontal have the same C concentration; (2) the radials projecting from the origin represent P:C ratio (e.g. f3 and f4 have the same P:C ratio, which is lower than that of f1 and f2); and (3) fat concentration is represented by diagonals with a slope of negative 1. The fat concentration represented by each diagonal is obtained by subtracting from 100 % the value where the diagonal intersects the P and C axes. Thus, both f1 and f4 contain fat at a concentration of 100 % − 30 % = 70 %, and f2 and f3 have a fat concentration of 100 % − 80 % = 20 %. Combining mixtures: the diets that can be composed by combining foods are constrained by the spatial relationship between the component foods. By mixing its intake from two foods an animal can compose a diet with composition that falls anywhere on the line connecting the points representing these foods, but nowhere off this line. For example, the diet represented by the square could be assembled by combining f2 and f5, but none of the diets represented by triangles or circles could be assembled in this way. Where three or more foods are eaten, the resulting diet is confined to the polygon formed by joining the component foods. Thus, all the circle diets could be achieved by combining foods f1-f3, as can all but one of the triangular diets (the one with composition closest to f5). To achieve this latter diet composition, the animal would need also to eat f5. Interpreting scatter of replicate points: the pattern of scatter of replicate points can contain significant biological information. For example, the scatter among the circle diets is tightly compressed around a P:C balance vector, but spread along this vector. This could indicate that the animals prioritize dietary P:C balance over fat content. Conversely, the triangular diets are aligned with a fat vector of 20 % but span a range of P:C balances, suggesting prioritization of fat
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Oecologia
DOI 10.1007/s00442-014-3142-0
PHYSIOLOGICAL ECOLOGY - ORIGINAL RESEARCH
Geometry of nutrition in field studies: an illustration using wild
primates
David Raubenheimer · Gabriel E. Machovsky‑Capuska ·
Colin A. Chapman · Jessica M. Rothman
Received: 10 February 2014 / Accepted: 3 November 2014
© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014
(RMT). We use literature data from field studies of pri-
mates to demonstrate how the RMT can provide insight
into a variety of important concepts in nutritional ecology.
We first compare the compositions of foods, using as an
example primate milks collected in both the wild and the
laboratory. We next compare the diets of different species
of primates from the same habitat and of the same spe-
cies (mountain gorillas) from two distinct forests. Subse-
quently, we model the relationships between the compo-
sition of gorilla diets in these two habitats and the foods
that comprise these diets, showing how such analyses can
provide evidence for active nutrient-specific regulation in
a field context. We provide a framework to relate concepts
developed in laboratory studies with field-based studies of
nutrition.
Keywords Nutritional ecology · Nutritional geometry ·
Mixture triangles · Primates · Gorillas
Introduction
Understanding the relationships between nutrition and
behaviour, ecology, physiology, and demographic processes
of animals is a central aim in nutritional ecology (Parker
2003; Barboza et al. 2009; Raubenheimer et al. 2009, 2012;
Lambert 2010; DeGabriel et al. 2014). Many studies have
shown that this can best be achieved by disentangling the
discrete and interactive roles of different food compo-
nents (Westoby 1974; Dearing and Schall 1992; Simp-
son and Raubenheimer 1993; Bowen et al. 1995; Robbins
et al. 2007). A geometric framework was introduced for
this purpose, called the geometric framework for nutrition
(Raubenheimer and Simpson 1993; Simpson and Rauben-
heimer 1993). This framework defines the important facets
Abstract Nutritional geometry has shown the benefits of
viewing nutrition in a multidimensional context, in which
foraging is viewed as a process of balancing the intake
and use of multiple nutrients. New insights into nutrient
regulation have been generated in studies performed in a
laboratory context, where accurate measures of amounts
(e.g. eaten, converted to body mass, excreted) can be made
and analysed using amounts-based nutritional geometry.
In most field situations, however, proportional composi-
tions (e.g. of foods, diets, faeces) are the only measures
readily available, and in some cases are more relevant to
the problem at hand. For this reason, a complementary
geometric method was recently introduced for analysing
multi-dimensional data on proportional compositions in
nutritional studies, called the right-angled mixture triangle
Communicated by Joanna E. Lambert.
D. Raubenheimer (*) · G. E. Machovsky-Capuska
Faculty of Veterinary Science, The Charles Perkins Centre,
School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Sydney,
Australia
e-mail: david.raubenheimer@sydney.edu.au
C. A. Chapman
Department of Anthropology McGill School of Environment,
McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
C. A. Chapman
Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, New York, USA
J. M. Rothman
Department of Anthropology, Hunter College of the City
University of New York, New York, USA
J. M. Rothman
New York Consortium of Evolutionary Primatology,
New York, USA
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of animal nutrition (e.g. foods, nutrient requirements, body
compositions, nutrient utilisation) in a cartesian space,
where each dimension represents a food component. Mod-
elling nutrition in this way enables the combined effects of
different food components to be quantified, and the various
levels of response by the animal (e.g. intake, growth, nutri-
ent absorption, performance) to be integrated within this
multi-dimensional context (Raubenheimer and Simpson
1997; Raubenheimer et al. 2009; Simpson and Raubenhe-
imer 2012).
An important feature of this geometric framework is
that the axes are scaled as amounts. Consequently, many
of the factors described in a nutrient space are represented
as time-integrated rates (e.g. intake over a given period,
growth within the same period), while other factors can
be represented either as amounts (e.g. nutrient content of a
stipulated quantity of food) or as proportions (e.g. the bal-
ance of nutrients X and Y within the food, or the balance of
nutrients required by the animal). Combining amounts and
proportions in this way has proved a powerful approach
for predicting an animal’s behavioural and physiologi-
cal responses to the nutritional environment (Simpson and
Raubenheimer 2012).
There are, however, many situations where models
of the proportional compositions of mixtures are prefer-
able to models of the absolute amounts of the constituents
(Raubenheimer 2011). First, in field work. the complex
sets of interacting variables and the logistical challenges of
collecting reliable data typically constrain the possibilities
for nutritional studies. For example, in the field, it is chal-
lenging to measure the daily intake of nutrients by an ani-
mal, but an estimate of the proportional composition of the
diet can be obtained using gut contents analysis (Hyslop
1980; Kamler and Pope 2001; Petry et al. 2007; Macho-
vsky-Capuska et al. 2011; Tait et al. 2014), regurgitations
(Schuckard et al. 2012; Tait et al. 2014), faecal analysis
(Klare et al. 2011; Giri et al. 2011; Panthi et al. 2012), bite
rates analysis (Shrader et al. 2006; Paddack et al. 2006) and
related methods. Second, field-based questions often relate
directly to proportions rather than absolute amounts, as is
the case where the nutritional compositions of different
foods or of foods versus non-foods are compared. Third, for
some purposes, the inclusion of amounts in the model will
introduce noise or surplus information, which is avoided in
an analysis of compositions. For example, a comparison of
the diets versus body composition of animals from different
trophic levels can be made using proportional compositions
(Fagan et al. 2002; Raubenheimer et al. 2007), whereas
analysis of absolute amounts of nutrients in, say, a predator
and its various prey species would introduce variance asso-
ciated with body size, thus complicating the model for lit-
tle benefit. Fourth, because proportional measures such as
food compositions are easy to obtain compared to measures
of absolute amounts (e.g. daily intakes), there exists a
wealth of data in the literature from which compositional
data can be extracted for comparative and meta-analyses.
For instance, Raubenheimer and Rothman (2013) were
able to examine the nutritional correlates of insectivory
in humans and other primates using published data on the
compositions of prey insects, when very few measures of
amounts of insects eaten were available.
Recently, a graphical approach, the right-angled mixture
triangle (RMT), was recommended as a complementary
geometric framework for problems in nutritional ecology
that involve primarily proportional data (Raubenheimer
2011). Like amounts-based nutritional geometry, RMT
provides a graphic model in which various facets of animal
nutrition can be represented and interrelated within a mul-
tidimensional context, but the axes represent proportions
of nutrients in mixtures (e.g. an animal’s diet) rather than
amounts. The exclusion of amounts in the model frees up a
dimension in RMT plots, enabling the relationships among
n components to be visualised in an n 1 dimensional
space. This property is particularly useful for represent-
ing three components in a regular two-dimensional plot,
because two-dimensional plots are intuitively accessible
and many problems in nutritional ecology concern three-
component mixtures. For example, numerous studies have
demonstrated the importance of the macronutrients pro-
tein, carbohydrate, and fat in the nutritional responses of
animals (Barboza et al. 2009; Simpson and Raubenheimer
2012; see also supplementary table in Raubenheimer et al.
2009), and the elements nitrogen, carbon, and phosphorus
have been identified in the science of ecological stoichiom-
etry as important drivers of ecosystem dynamics (Sterner
and Elser 2002). There are, however, also ways to repre-
sent more than three components in RMTs (Raubenheimer
2011).
Although RMT is technically different from amounts-
based nutritional geometry (henceforth ABNG), the two
approaches are complementary means for addressing simi-
lar questions under different circumstances. In contrast
with RMTs, however, the widespread application of ABNG
in laboratory studies has yielded a substantial body of
concepts around multidimensional analyses of nutritional
problems, the utility of which has been demonstrated in
a range of systems, questions and contexts (Simpson and
Raubenheimer 2012). For example, using this approach
Lee et al. (2008) and Solon-Biet et al. (2014) have dem-
onstrated that the life-extending effects of mild dietary
deprivation are not due to “caloric restriction” as widely
assumed, but rather specific effects of macronutrient ratios.
This has taken a number of years, partly because the data
suitable for amounts-based geometric analyses are seldom
found pre-existent in the literature, but require de-novo
studies designed for the purpose (although exceptions do
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exist: Simpson and Raubenheimer 1997; Raubenheimer
and Simpson 1997; Lee et al. 2008).
Here, we illustrate the use of RMTs for addressing impor-
tant questions in field-based nutritional ecology, with the aim
of contributing to the development of a conceptual framework
for the study of animal nutrition in the wild. We are able to
do so by drawing on the conceptual foundation already devel-
oped in ABNG, and capitalising on the abundant proportions-
based literature data. Primates provide an excellent system
for our analyses, because a long history of field studies with
observational data of individuals has yielded abundant data
enabling us to illustrate how RMTs may be used to address a
range of significant questions in nutritional ecology. We also
illustrate how RMTs can be used as a synthetic and compara-
tive tool for integrating the wealth of published data on the
nutritional ecology of animals. Such integration is a power-
ful means for developing new insights and hypotheses, as has
recently been done in relation to the ways that appetite and
regulatory physiology interact with economics and global
change to generate obesity in humans and companion ani-
mals (Raubenheimer et al. 2014).
The right‑angled mixture triangle
Details of the history, derivation, and logic of the RMT are
provided by Raubenheimer (2011). In brief, RMTs provide
a means to represent mixtures (e.g. foods, diets, and animal
nutrient requirements) as points on a graph, and to extract
information from the geometric relationships among such
points. For the present purposes, there are four categories
of information that we wish to illustrate: compositional
representations, compositional comparisons, combinatorial
constraints, and patterns of scatter (Fig. 1). These catego-
ries of information provide the basis in the rest of the paper
for examples illustrating the application of RMT to specific
biological problems.
In RMTs, the composition of a mixture such as a food is
represented as an n-dimensional point in a space of n 1
dimensions. For example, if the macronutrients protein,
carbohydrate, and fat are the focus of the model, the mix-
ture is depicted as a 3-coordinate point in a two-dimen-
sional plot, where each coordinate gives the proportional
contribution of one of these components to the macronutri-
ent fraction of the mixture (Fig. 1). If a fourth component is
added to the model, for example fibre, then a 3-dimensional
plot can be used. Higher-dimensional mixtures can be rep-
resented in various ways (Raubenheimer 2011), but models
involving such data can be intractably complex and might
better be parsed into a series of three- or four-dimensional
analyses.
Compositional differences between two mixtures (e.g.
foods) can be geometrically defined in terms of discrete
Fig. 1 Right-angled mixture triangle showing hypothetical data rep-
resenting five foods (f1f5) and the diets (i.e. combinations of foods,
hollow symbols) eaten by various animals. Mixture composition:
each point shows the protein (P), carbohydrate (C) and fat (F) com-
position of the mixture. In this model, P and C are represented on
the X and Y axes, respectively. Since P, C and F sum to 100 %, stipu-
lating values for P and C implicitly fixes the value for F. For exam-
ple, since food f1 contains 20 % P and 10 % C, the value for F is
100 % (20 + 10) % = 70 %; point f1 therefore has X:Y:Z coordi-
nates of (20:10:70). By the same reasoning, the P:C:F coordinates for
point f3 are (20:60:20). The third axis label is given in square brackets
above the plot, and the value for the third variable is given in square
brackets on the respective isolines for that variable. Comparing mix-
tures: compositional relationships between mixtures are defined by
discrete vectors, or combinations of vectors: (1) points that fall on
the same vertical contain the same concentration of P (e.g. f1 and f3
both have 20 % P); equivalently, points aligning on a horizontal have
the same C concentration; (2) the radials projecting from the origin
represent P:C ratio (e.g. f3 and f4 have the same P:C ratio, which is
lower than that of f1 and f2); and (3) fat concentration is represented
by diagonals with a slope of negative 1. The fat concentration repre-
sented by each diagonal is obtained by subtracting from 100 % the
value where the diagonal intersects the P and C axes. Thus, both f1
and f4 contain fat at a concentration of 100 % 30 % = 70 %, and f2
and f3 have a fat concentration of 100 % 80 % = 20 %. Combining
mixtures: the diets that can be composed by combining foods are con-
strained by the spatial relationship between the component foods. By
mixing its intake from two foods an animal can compose a diet with
composition that falls anywhere on the line connecting the points rep-
resenting these foods, but nowhere off this line. For example, the diet
represented by the square could be assembled by combining f2 and
f5, but none of the diets represented by triangles or circles could be
assembled in this way. Where three or more foods are eaten, the result-
ing diet is confined to the polygon formed by joining the component
foods. Thus, all the circle diets could be achieved by combining foods
f1–f3, as can all but one of the triangular diets (the one with composi-
tion closest to f5). To achieve this latter diet composition, the animal
would need also to eat f5. Interpreting scatter of replicate points: the
pattern of scatter of replicate points can contain significant biological
information. For example, the scatter among the circle diets is tightly
compressed around a P:C balance vector, but spread along this vector.
This could indicate that the animals prioritize dietary P:C balance over
fat content. Conversely, the triangular diets are aligned with a fat vec-
tor of 20 % but span a range of P:C balances, suggesting prioritization
of fat
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quantitative vectors, or combinations of these; conversely,
similarities between mixtures can be recognized as shared
parameters within mixture space (Fig. 1). When two foods
are combined to form a diet, the set of possible diets is con-
strained to lie on the line connecting these foods. When
more than two foods are combined, the set of possible diets
falls within the area joining the points representing the
component foods (Fig. 1). Finally, the scatter of replicate
points in an RMT can provide important biological infor-
mation. Thus, if the compositions of the selected diets of
several replicate animals clustered more tightly along the
vector representing the balance of protein:carbohydrate
than the vector for dietary fat content, this might suggest
that the mechanisms regulating nutrient intake prioritize
protein to carbohydrate balance over fat intake (Fig. 1).
In the sections that follow, we analyse literature data to
show how the above principles can be used in field-based
primate studies to model key concepts in nutritional ecol-
ogy. Since many of these concepts have been developed in
ABNG, we also briefly explain how each concept is repre-
sented within that framework.
Foods: the composition of milk
Our first example concerns the multi-component compari-
son of the composition of foods. In ABNG, foods are rep-
resented in two ways. First, a stipulated measure of a par-
ticular food is represented by a point with coordinates that
give the amount of each of the focal nutrients. Second, the
more general property that pertains to any quantity of the
food, its nutrient balance, is given by the slope of the line
that joins the above-mentioned point with the origin. Such
lines representing the nutrient balance of a food are called
“nutritional rails”, reflecting the fact that as an animal eats
the food its nutritional state changes along a trajectory that
is coincident with the rail for that food.
As explained above, in RMTs the composition of foods
is depicted as an n-dimensional point in a space of n 1
dimensions. To illustrate the use of RMT in the analysis of
food compositions, we will use as an example the macronu-
trient content of primate milk. In our first analysis, we plot
the composition of field-collected samples of milk from
six species of primates (Fig. 2a). For two of these species,
common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus; Power et al. 2008)
and mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei; Whittier et al.
2010), replicate samples are plotted, thus providing infor-
mation on the within-sample variability of the three nutri-
ents. For both gorillas and marmosets, the replicate samples
clustered more tightly along the negative-sloped diagonal
(representing protein concentration) and were more widely
spread along that vector suggesting that both species pro-
duce milk with a relatively fixed proportion of macronu-
trients contributed by protein, with higher intra-specific
variation in the fat:carbohydrate ratios. This has previously
been noted for common marmosets (Power et al. 2008) and
tufted capuchins (Milligan 2010; see also Raubenheimer
2011), and Fig. 2a shows that a similar pattern exists for
mountain gorillas. Raubenheimer (2011) suggested that
this pattern might reflect physiological regulation by the
mother to ensure that the suckling infant obtains a diet that
is balanced with respect to the protein:non-protein ratio, a
parameter that is commonly achieved through food selec-
tion and complementary feeding in weaned animals (Simp-
son and Raubenheimer 2012). Relatively high variability
in the carbohydrate:fat ratio likely reflects their substitut-
ability as sources of non-protein energy, as has been dem-
onstrated through the patterns of macronutrient selection
in several species including fish (Ruohonen et al. 2007),
domestic dogs (Hewson-Hughes et al. 2013), grizzly bears
(Erlenbach et al. 2014) and humans (Simpson and Rauben-
heimer 2005).
Given the logistical challenges of collecting milk from
primates in the field, an important question is to what
extent the milk of captive animals resembles that of con-
specifics in the wild. To address this, Power et al. (2008)
considered samples from both wild common marmosets
(plotted as filled circles in Fig. 2a) and captive conspecif-
ics (hollow circles). The protein content of the milk from
captive and wild marmosets was relatively constant with
more variation in the balance of fat:carbohydrate. Further,
the analysis of Power et al. (2008) showed that the pro-
tein content of the milk from the two groups did not dif-
fer statistically, as is suggested in Fig. 2a by the alignment
Fig. 2 Macronutrient composition of mammalian milk (protein, fat
and carbohydrate, on a mass basis). a Replicate samples of milk from
wild and captive common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus, Power et al.
2008) had a similar proportion of protein (clustered along a negative
diagonal representing 20 % P), but varied in the fat:carbohydrate
ratio (was spread along the diagonal). Replicate samples of milk col-
lected from free-ranging mountain gorillas Gorilla beringei (Whittier
et al. 2010) also had a relatively constant protein content, but this was
lower (clustered along the diagonal representing 15 % P) than mar-
moset milk. Also plotted are single milk samples collected in the field
from four other primate species, three of which had similar protein
content to marmoset milk and the fourth had similar protein content
to gorilla milk, but a higher fat:carbohydrate ratio. b Comparison of
macronutrient content in the milks of apes, New World monkeys, Old
World monkeys and Strepsirrhines. Mean protein content was lowest
in apes (11.3 %, indicated by the red line), intermediate in Old World
monkeys (13.6 %, grey line) and highest in New World monkeys
(20.0 %, blue line). Strepsirrhines split into two clusters, one with
intermediate protein (16 %, dashed black line) and low fat, and the
other with higher protein (25 %, solid black line) and higher fat. The
two clusters of Strepsirrhines represent different dietary groups: the
former being herbivorous, and the latter including a substantial por-
tion of insects in the diet. Data from Hinde and Milligan (2011). c
Comparison of macronutrient content in the milks of primates with
a range of non-primate mammals. Primate milks generally have low
protein and fat, with high carbohydrate content compared with the
other mammals (colour figure online)
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of the samples from the two groups along the same protein
isoline (negative diagonal). On the other hand, the captive
marmosets had a higher fat:carbohydrate ratio than wild
marmosets, as indicated by their displacement to the left
along the protein isoline (Fig. 2a), although there was sub-
stantial overlap. Overall, this suggests that milk taken from
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captive marmosets might be representative of wild samples
with respect to the ratio of protein:non-protein energy, but
the balance of fat to carbohydrate is more context specific.
Despite the fact that the concentration of protein was
maintained relatively constant in the milk of both marmo-
sets and gorillas, there was also a marked difference in the
milk of these two species. The milk of gorillas clustered
along an isoline representing a lower protein concentra-
tion (displaced further from the origin, mean 14 %) than
marmosets (20 %) (t1,34 = 3.76, P < 0.001, independent
samples t test). Also plotted are single milk samples from
four other primates. Three of these had similar protein con-
tent to marmoset milk (Alouatta palliata, A. seniculus, and
Leontopithecus rosalia), and the fourth (Macaca sinica)
had similar protein content to mountain gorilla milk but a
higher fat:carbohydrate ratio.
Is the proportional protein content more generally a
dimension that distinguishes the milk of different primates?
Hinde and Milligan (2011) presented data which sug-
gest that this is the case. These data, plotted as an RMT
in Fig. 2b, show that across several species of apes, Old
World Monkeys and New World monkeys, protein was rel-
atively constant within groups compared with fat and car-
bohydrate, but differed between primate groups. Apes had
the lowest protein content (mean ± SE = 11.3 ± 1.27 %),
followed by Old World monkeys (13.6 ± 0.75 %) and
New World Monkeys (20.0 ± 0.72 %) (P < 0.0001, inde-
pendent samples Kruskal–Wallis test). A fourth group,
the Strepsirrhines, separated into two sub-groups, which
corresponded with dietary differences. Milk from the her-
bivorous Strepsirrhines had lower protein (16 ± 2.19 %)
and fat (13 ± 2.39 %) than that from species that include
a substantial proportion of insects (at least 27 %, National
Research Council 2003) in the diet (protein = 25 ± 1.76 %,
fat = 43 ± 2.38 %). These differences did not, however,
stand up to a more conservative phylogenetic analysis
(mean logit difference ±CI, protein = 0.454, 1.577 to
0.702; fat = 1.591, 3.090 to 0.140; phylogenetic mixed
model approach, as described by Hadfield and Nakagawa
2010). It would be worth exploring this question using a
larger sample size.
Finally, Fig. 2c compares the data for primate milk with
equivalent data for other mammals. The plot shows that
only the horse and the ass fell within the range for pri-
mates, whereas most other milks had higher proportional
protein and/or fat content than primates, clearly show-
ing that the milk of primates differs markedly from other
mammals in terms of its protein concentration. In addi-
tion, primates produce relatively dilute milks with lower
energy density than other mammals (Hinde and Milligan
2011); although not illustrated here, this can readily be
modelled using RMT (Raubenheimer 2011). Comparative
analysis suggests that such variation in the composition of
mammalian milk is due to a combination of phylogeny and
specific adaptations such as diet and life histories (Skibiel
et al. 2013).
Diets: Comparative nutrient intakes
RMTs also provide a means to visualise and compare the
relationships between the mixtures of foods eaten by ani-
mals and the resulting nutrient gains (i.e. animal diets). Fig-
ure 3, for example, presents the estimated annual intakes
of protein, non-structural carbohydrate and fibre in the
plant-derived component of the diets of six wild primates,
representing five species. These are chimpanzees (Pan trog-
lodytes), blue monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis), red-tailed
monkeys (Cercopithecus ascanius), and grey-cheeked
mangabey (Lophocebus albigena) in Kibale National Park,
Uganda, and mountain gorillas in Bwindi National Park,
Uganda, and Virunga National Park, Rwanda. Plotting the
diets of these populations in this way clearly illustrates
Fig. 3 Protein, non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) and neutral-deter-
gent fibre composition of the plant-derived component of the diets
of chimpanzees and three species of monkeys from Kibale National
Park, Uganda, compared with mountain gorillas from Bwindi and
Virunga (chimpanzees Pan troglodytes, green diamond; blue monkey
Cercopithecus mitis, blue circle; red-tailed monkey Cercopithecus
ascanius, blue pentagon; mangabey Lophocebus albigena, blue tri-
angle; Virunga gorillas, red elipse; Bwindi gorillas, red square).
Radials show the protein:NSC ratio, and the negative diagonals the
%NDF. The three different species of monkeys living in overlapping
home ranges had very similar dietary composition, as did the two
populations of mountain gorillas living in different habitats. Chim-
panzees, which overlap in habitat with the monkeys, had a lower
protein:carbohydrate ratio than the other species, but similar propor-
tional NDF intake as the monkeys (40 %). The diet of gorillas had the
highest protein:carbohydrate ratio, and also the highest concentration
of NDF (54 %) (colour figure online)
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several interesting patterns in a single plot. First, the bal-
ance of protein, non-structural carbohydrates, and fibre in
the plant tissues eaten by the three monkey species was
remarkably similar (Conklin-Brittain et al. 1998). It is
interesting that the plant component of the diet of red-tailed
monkeys did not differ from the other two monkey species,
even though, in addition to plants, red-tailed monkeys also
include a significant proportion of high-protein insects in
their diet (Rode et al. 2006; Bryer et al. 2013). This sug-
gests that omnivory in this species is associated with a
higher protein target than the other monkey species, rather
than complementary feeding to achieve a similar nutritional
target (Raubenheimer and Jones 2006). Second, the fibre
content of the diets of chimpanzees and the three monkey
species was similar, but the proportion of fibre in the diets
of gorillas was higher. Third, the protein:non-structural
carbohydrate ratio in the diets of these primates increased
from chimpanzees to gorillas, with the diets of monkeys
being intermediate. Finally, the intakes of the two gorilla
populations converged in the nutrient space, despite the fact
that they lived in two geographically separate and botani-
cally very distinct forests (Rothman et al. 2007). This is
significant, for reasons that we explain next.
Role of nutritional regulation in diet selection
Amounts-based nutritional geometry has been used in
laboratory experiments to demonstrate that many animals
actively regulate their intake of different nutrients sepa-
rately to track an intake target. Known instances include
herbivores, omnivores, and predators, spanning inverte-
brates and vertebrates (Simpson and Raubenheimer 2012).
It is important in investigating this issue to determine the
extent to which the composition of the selected diet results
from active, homeostatic regulation of intake, or is simply a
passive consequence of the composition of available foods
(Raubenheimer et al. 2012).
There are several ways to do this. One approach is to
compare the intakes of two or more groups of similar ani-
mals that are provided with different nutritionally comple-
mentary food combinations. In this design, the animals in
the different experimental groups have to spread their feed-
ing among the foods differently to achieve the same nutri-
ent gain, because combining the foods in similar propor-
tions will result in different nutrient gains. Chambers et al.
(1995) took this approach in experiments on the African
migratory locusts (Locusta migratoria). There were four
groups of locusts, each of which was given a pair of syn-
thetic foods: one containing a protein:carbohydrate (P:C)
ratio of 1:2 and the other of 2:1. The treatments differed,
however, in the extent to which the foods were diluted
using indigestible cellulose: the macronutrient mixture
comprised either 42 % (dry weight) of both foods, 21 % of
both foods, or 21 % of one food and 42 % of the other. If
the locusts in the different experimental groups ate similar
amounts of the respective food pairings, then they would
end up with very different nutrient intakes. This was not the
case: the locusts spread their feeding across their respective
food pairings in such a way that the nutrient intake points
of the four groups converged tightly in the nutrient space.
These results demonstrate that locusts faced with variation
in the composition of available foods alter their feeding
behaviour to maintain a target macronutrient intake.
Demonstrating macronutrient regulation to a target
intake by free-ranging animals in the wild is more chal-
lenging. However, the core principle of testing for con-
stant nutrient intake in the face of variation in food com-
position applies equally in the laboratory and field. Using
RMT, this would mean comparing the nutrient gains of
different groups of the animals when feeding on disparate
food combinations. If the foods are combined in different
proportions that result in a diet of similar nutrient balance,
then this suggests that diet selection is driven by nutrient-
specific regulation; i.e. the animals in different environ-
ments are regulating food intake so as to gain the required
balance of nutrients. It is, however, also possible that the
distribution of food compositions in the respective envi-
ronments is, by coincidence, such that diet selection using
criteria other than nutrient requirements (e.g. frequency-
dependent selection of foods) results in similar nutrient
gain across environments. This possibility can be addressed
by comparing the frequency of different foods in the diet
and environment.
An example of such an analysis to test for nutrient-
based food selection in the wild is given in Fig. 4a. The plot
shows the estimated annual intake of protein, non-struc-
tural carbohydrate, and fibre in the diets of mountain goril-
las in Virunga and Bwindi National Parks (the same data
as in Fig. 3). Also shown are the compositions of all the
foods that contributed 1 % or more of the diets by weight
(these cumulatively amounted to 90 and 96 % of the diets
of the Virunga and Bwindi populations, respectively; Roth-
man et al. 2007). This figure shows that the similar nutrient
intakes of the two populations were compiled from differ-
ent combinations of foods, an outcome which suggests that
the diet of these gorillas is determined by active nutrient
regulation.
As noted above, it remains possible, however, that the
similar nutrient intakes of Bwindi and Virunga goril-
las were a passive consequence of the relative availabili-
ties of different foods in the two habitats. If this were the
case, then observed diet compositions of the two popula-
tions would correspond with the hollow square (Virunga)
and circle (Bwindi) in Fig. 4a. Visually, it appears that this
is not the case. To evaluate this statistically, we tested for
relationships between percentage contribution to the diet
Oecologia
1 3
of the foods and their relative availability in the respective
habitats (Fig. 4b). There was no significant relationship,
suggesting that the similar dietary compositions of gorillas
in Bwindi and Virunga were not a passive consequence of
food availability, but involved selection of foods in a pat-
tern that was disproportionate in relation to availability.
Further, Fig. 5a, b shows that the mechanism for achiev-
ing the observed nutrient gains differed between the pop-
ulations. In the Virunga gorillas, 36 and 22 % of the diet
were contributed from the first and second highest-ranking
foods in the diet, respectively. The top contributing food
had a protein:carbohydrate ratio that was lower than the
overall diet, while the second had protein:carbohydrate
ratio that was appreciably higher than the diet. This shows
that 58 % of the diet of the Virunga gorillas was constituted
by mixing two nutritionally complementary foods. In con-
trast, the relationships among the top-ranking foods that
comprised 58 % of the diet of Bwindi gorillas were very
different. In this case, six foods were involved, all of which
had a protein:carbohydrate ratio similar to the diet overall.
The diet of Bwindi gorillas was therefore composed largely
from foods that had a similar balance to the selected intake
point, with complementary mixing of disparate foods play-
ing a lesser role than for the Virunga gorillas.
Digestive efficiencies
The functional significance of nutrition derives from the
interaction of ingestion and post-ingestive processing of
foods. Amounts-based geometric analysis can investigate
this issue, by constructing multi-component nutrient budg-
ets in which the amounts of the focal nutrients ingested,
used, and excreted are plotted separately in the same nutri-
ent space (Raubenheimer et al. 2009). Measuring post-
ingestive processing of dietary components in this way is
more challenging for free-ranging wild animals, because of
the difficulties of estimating for an individual the amounts
of a food eaten and amounts of faeces produced from that
food.
It is, however, possible using RMTs to estimate the rela-
tive digestive priorities of wild animals by comparing the
compositions of their foods and faeces (Raubenheimer
2011). To illustrate, Fig. 6 shows an example concerning
the fibre components (cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin)
in fruit and leaves eaten by juvenile, female and silverback
gorillas from Bwindi, and in the faeces associated with
fruit- and leaf-eating periods. The plot shows, firstly, that
there was no distinct separation of fruit and leaves in the
composition space, indicating that the fibre composition of
these two foods did not differ (as noted previously by Roth-
man et al. 2006). Secondly, the ratio of lignin:hemicellulose
was higher in the faeces than the foods, reflecting the
fact that lignin is undigestible for gorillas whereas
Fig. 4 a Protein, non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) and neutral-deter-
gent fibre ratios of the principal foods (those contributing >1 % to the
diet) and diet composition of two allopatric populations of mountain
gorillas, in Virunga and Bwindi National Parks, Uganda. Circles repre-
sent the foods (blue) and diet composition (red) of Bwindi gorillas, and
squares represent the foods (green) and diet (red) of Virunga gorillas.
The hollow circle and square represent the expected diet composition
of Bwindi and Virunga gorillas, respectively, if foods were eaten in pro-
portion to their availability. The line joining the outermost foods from
each site delineates the accessible space available to each gorilla pop-
ulation given its choice of foods. Despite the foods differing between
the sites, the composition of the diet ingested by the two populations of
gorillas was closely similar, but different from the expected diet if feed-
ing was proportional to availability. b Scatterplot of the relationship
between availability and percentage contribution of foods to the diets
of Bwindi (blue circles) and Virunga (green squares) gorillas. The lack
of positive correlation suggests that foods were not eaten in proportion
to their availability (Virunga: Spearman’s rho = 0.465, P = 0.094;
Bwindi: Spearman’s rho = 0.160, P = 0.682). Food availability within
the home ranges of Bwindi and Virunga gorillas was estimated by
Plumptre (1995) and by Ganas et al. (2004), respectively. Data from
Rothman et al. (2007) (colour figure online)
Oecologia
1 3
hemicellulose is partly digested (Van Soest 1994; Remis
2000; Remis and Dierenfeld 2004). Thirdly, hemicellulose
was extracted from leaves to a greater extent than fruits,
as shown by the higher lignin:hemicellulose ratio in leaf-
derived than fruit-derived faeces. Finally, the points for
foods aligned on a diagonal that is closer to the origin than
the points for faeces, showing that the faeces were depleted
of cellulose relative to the foods. Overall, this analysis
shows that hemicellulose is depleted in the faeces of goril-
las relative to lignin, and this depletion is more pronounced
when eating leaves than fruit, reflecting the fact that leaf
diets are more digestible than fruit diets, due to the large
seeds in fruits that are not digested (Rothman et al. 2008).
Cellulose, too, is depleted in the faeces compared with the
foods, but in this case there was no apparent difference
between fruits and leaves.
Conclusions
We have used published data on primates to illustrate
how RMTs can be used to address a range of questions in
nutritional ecology. These span from basic questions con-
cerning, for example, the variation in the composition of
primate milk, to questions of practical importance in the
conservation of biological diversity. For example, by bet-
ter understanding the ways in which animals balance their
nutrient intake needs, we are better informed about their
habitat needs. Bears on salmon streams are a good exam-
ple: while it had previously been thought that salmon intake
maximisation is the best strategy for bears, it has become
clear in recent studies that bears can minimise energetic
requirements by appropriately balancing their protein to
non-protein energy ratio (Erlenbach et al. 2014). Similarly,
a recent study showed that giant pandas migrate between
two habitats to balance their intake of calcium, phosphorus
and protein (Nie et al. 2014). In both cases, conservation
decisions would need to take into account the non-substi-
tutability of habitats on which these species rely to balance
their nutrition.
There are several reasons why nutritional geometry in
general, including RMT and ABNG, is a powerful tool
for addressing such questions. First, it provides a means
of conceptualising nutrition in more than one dimension,
thereby capturing both the independent and interactive
effects of nutrients on animals. Numerous studies have
shown that these interactive effects play a substantial role
in influencing animals––their behaviour, physiology, life
Fig. 5 Food and diet composition of Virunga (a) and Bwindi (b)
gorillas plotted separately (symbols and data as in Fig. 4a). Also
shown is the % contribution of each food to the diet, with the top-
ranking foods that jointly contributed approximately 60 % of
the diet highlighted in red boxes. The comparison shows that
58 % of the Virunga diet was comprised by two foods, one with a
protein:carbohydrate ratio that was considerably greater than,
and the other smaller than, that of the diet composition. This dem-
onstrates that the diet of Virunga gorillas was assembled to a
large extent through complementary feeding. By contrast, 60 %
of the diet of Bwindi gorillas was composed from 6 foods, all of
which had a protein:carbohydrate ratio that closely resembled
the diet composition. This suggests a stronger role in the selec-
tion by gorillas in Bwindi of foods that are balanced with respect to
protein:carbohydrate, with a minimal role for complementary feeding
(colour figure online)
Oecologia
1 3
history, ecology and evolution (Despland and Noseworthy
2006; Behmer and Joern 2008; Hawlena and Schmitz 2010;
Simpson and Raubenheimer 2012; Saravanan et al. 2012).
Second, the geometric space provides a device in which
salient components of the interaction of animal and envi-
ronment can be conceptually and quantitatively interrelated
in common, multi-dimensional, terms. Examples presented
here include foods, diets, and faecal composition, and oth-
ers have been discussed elsewhere (Raubenheimer et al.
2009; Simpson and Raubenheimer 2012). Third, nutritional
geometry is versatile, because different combinations of
axes (e.g. nutrients) and model components (e.g. foods,
diets) can be selected to address specific problems. Finally,
although not illustrated in the present paper, non-nutritional
variables (e.g. life-history responses to nutritional state)
can be incorporated into geometric models using response
surface methodology (Lee et al. 2008; Jensen et al. 2012;
Blumfield et al. 2012).
Amounts-based nutritional geometry has been applied
extensively in laboratory studies, yielding advances in,
among other fields, foraging theory (Raubenheimer et al.
2007, 2009), life-history theory (Lee et al. 2008; Maklakov
et al. 2009; Simpson and Raubenheimer 2010; Jensen et al.
2012), conservation (Raubenheimer and Simpson 2006),
causes of human obesity (Simpson et al. 2003; Simpson
and Raubenheimer 2005; Gosby et al. 2011; Raubenhe-
imer et al. 2014), and the design of feeds for agriculture
(Ruohonen et al. 2007) and companion animals (Hewson-
Hughes et al. 2011, 2012). The potential of nutritional
geometry for field studies with ecological applications is
receiving increasing attention (Raubenheimer et al. 2009,
2012; Simpson et al. 2010; Kearney et al. 2010, 2012;
Tait et al. 2014). A limitation, however, is that accurate
amounts-based data on animal foraging can be challenging
or impossible to collect in the field. To date, only three field
projects have succeeded in this respect: Peruvian spider
monkeys (Ateles chamek, Felton et al. 2009a, b), mountain
gorillas (Rothman et al. 2011) and chacma baboons (Papio
hamadryas ursinus; Johnson et al. 2013). For this reason,
Raubenheimer (2011) introduced the RMT as a propor-
tions-based modelling platform that is less demanding of
data and can be applied broadly in field studies. The exam-
ples presented here are intended to illustrate how concepts
developed in ABNG can be represented in RMT, including
foods, diets, nutritional regulation, and digestive efficien-
cies. Primates provide a fitting system, because the extent
to which they have been studied in the wild provides abun-
dant published data for our illustration.
This highlights a further strength of RMT, namely that
they can readily be applied to re-analyses of the substantial
proportions-based published data (e.g. of food composi-
tions), whereas there are fewer amounts-based data avail-
able in the literature (but see Simpson and Raubenheimer
1997 for rats, Raubenheimer and Simpson 1997 for chick-
ens, and Lee et al. 2008 for flies). This enables RMT to be
used in literature-based studies, as demonstrated by Rauben-
heimer and Rothman (2013) in their investigation of the
nutritional drivers of insectivory in humans and other pri-
mates. It is hoped that the present paper will both stimulate
synthetic studies of published data on animal foraging and
diet choice, and help to frame new studies that will contrib-
ute to the understanding of comparative nutritional ecology.
Acknowledgments We are grateful to Dr Alistair Senior for assis-
tance with the comparative analysis of primate milk compositions.
This research was partially funded by Faculty of Veterinary Science
Research Fund, The University of Sydney. D.R. is part-funded by
Gravida, The National Research Centre for Growth and Development,
New Zealand.
Conflict of interest The authors declare that they have no conflict
of interest.
Fig. 6 Use of RMT to investigate relative digestive efficiencies of
fibre components of dietary fruits (circles) and leaves (triangles) by
comparing the foods (symbols with black outline) with faeces (sym-
bols without black outline). Colours distinguish juveniles (red), adult
females (green) and silverback (blue) mountain gorillas. The data
show that, for adult female and silverback gorillas and both food
types, faeces were lower in hemicellulose (shift to the left) and cel-
lulose and higher in lignin relative to matched foods. The data also
suggest that the faeces derived from leaves (comparison of triangles
with and without black outline) were reduced in hemicellulose rela-
tive to lignin to a greater extent than faeces derived from fruits (com-
parison of circles with and without black outline). The same pattern
applies for leaves eaten by juveniles (comparison of red triangles
with and without black outline), whereas faeces derived from fruits
eaten by juveniles were enriched in both lignin and hemicellulose,
and depleted to a greater extent in cellulose (18 vs. 30 % for other
faecal samples) (comparison of red circles with and without black
outline) (colour figure online)
Oecologia
1 3
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... Examples of diet balancing through HCF are taxonomically widespread, ranging from slime molds to insects, spiders, fish, rodents, domesticated cats, and humans (reviewed in Simpson and Raubenheimer, 2012). As discussed below, similar results have been reported from observational studies of primates in the wild, for example where populations eating different food combinations ingest a nutritionally similar diet (Rothman et al., 2007;Raubenheimer et al., 2015;Hou et al., 2020) and where individual animals achieve consistent nutrient intakes across foraging days from different food combinations (Johnson et al., 2013). ...
... That this is driven by active nutrient selection, rather than passively by the distribution of nutrients within the food environment, is suggested by evidence that macronutrient intakes remain constant when feeding on different combinations of foods. For example, the annual diets of mountain gorilla populations in Bwindi and Virunga national parks are nutritionally similar even though they subsist on different food combinations (Rothman et al., 2007;Raubenheimer et al., 2015). At the level of individuals, a female chacma baboon fed on different combinations of ca. ...
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Animals require specific blends of nutrients that vary across the life course and with circumstances, e.g., health and activity levels. Underpinning and complicating these requirements is that individual traits may be optimised on different dietary compositions leading to nutrition-mediated trade-offs among outcomes. Additionally, the food environment may constrain which nutrient mixtures are achievable. Natural selection has equipped animals for solving such multidimensional, dynamic challenges of nutrition, but little is understood about the details and their theoretical and practical implications. We present an integrative framework, nutritional geometry, which models complex nutritional interactions in the context of multiple nutrients and across levels of biological organization (e.g., cellular, individual, population) and levels of analysis (e.g., mechanistic, developmental, ecological, evolutionary). The framework is generalizable across different situations and taxa. We illustrate this using examples spanning insects to primates and settings (laboratory, and the wild), and illustrate its relevance for human health.
... First, the nutrient balance model framed in nutritional geometry proposes that animals achieve an optimal balance of nutrients to meet their various requirements ('nutritional intake target' from now on) by mixing nutritionally complementary foods. In this model, foraging is primarily a process aimed at balancing multiple nutrients, not of energy acquisition per se (Raubenheimer et al., 2015;Simpson & Raubenheimer, 2012). Second, the energy maximisation model within optimal foraging theory (Stephens et al., 2006) states that animals are committed to maximise their daily energy intake ('energy intake target' from now on), in which they direct the search for food towards those items that are more energetically profitable. ...
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According to diet‐regulation hypotheses, animals select food to regulate the intake of macronutrients or maximise energy feeding efficiency. Specifically, the nutrient balance model proposes that foraging is primarily a process of balancing multiple nutrients to achieve a nutritional intake target, while the energy maximisation model proposes that foraging aims to maximise energy. Here, we evaluate the adjustment of fruit diets (the fruit‐derived component of the diets) to nutritional and energy intake targets, characterizing the nutrient balance and energy maximisation strategies across fruit‐eating bird species with different fruit‐handling behaviours ("gulpers", which swallow whole fruits, and "mashers", which process the fruit in the beak) in subtropical Andean forests. Food‐handling behaviour determines the food intake rate and, consequently, influences animal efficiency to obtain nutrients and energy. We used extensive field data from the diet of fruit‐eating birds to test how species adjust their food intake. We used nutritional geometry to explore macronutrient balance and the effectiveness framework to explore energy‐acquisition effectiveness. Observed diets showed a good fit with predictions of a diet balanced in macronutrient proportions. With few exceptions, diets clustered near an optimal macronutrient mixture and did not differ from each other in terms of maximising energy intake. Moreover, when comparing our results with a random diet based on local fruit availability, birds tended to fit better to the nutritional target, and less to the energy target, than expected from a random diet. Fruit‐handling behaviour did not affect the ability of bird species to reach a nutritional target but it affected species energy acquisition, which was lower in mashers than in gulpers. This study explores for the first time different diet‐regulation strategies in wild fruit‐eating birds, and supports the argument that the diet reflects a specific regulation of macronutrients. Understanding why birds select fruits is a complex question requiring multiple considerations. The nutrient balance model explains the relevance of nutrient composition in the fruit selection by fruit‐eating birds, although it is still necessary to determine its relative importance with respect to other dietary drivers.
... Although much has been done to use field-based feeding observations to understand the nutrient targets of primates (Felton et al., 2009;Norconk & Conklin-Brittain, 2004;Raubenheimer et al., 2015;Rothman et al., 2011;Takahashi et al., 2019;Uwimbabazi et al., 2021;Wrangham et al., 1998), there is a striking absence of data on the effect that specific PSMs might play in either influencing food choice or modifying nutrient targets. In contrast to studies with marsupials (Marsh et al., 2015), rodents (Sorensen et al., 2005), lagomorphs (Bryant et al., 1983), and ungulates (Stolter et al., 2005), few studies on primates have focussed on specific, characterized secondary metabolites. ...
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The role of plant secondary metabolites (PSMs) in shaping the feeding decisions, habitat suitability, and reproductive success of herbivorous mammals has been a major theme in ecology for decades. Although primatologists were among the first to test these ideas, studies of PSMs in the feeding ecology of non-human primates have lagged in recent years, leading to a recent call for primatologists to reconnect with phytochemists to advance our understanding of the primate nutrition. To further this case, we present a formal meta-analysis of diet choice in response to PSMs based on field studies on wild primates. Our analysis of 155 measurements of primate feeding response to PSMs is drawn from 53 studies across 43 primate species which focussed primarily on the effect of three classes of PSMs tannins, phenolics, and alkaloids. We found a small but significant effect of PSMs on the diet choice of wild primates, which was largely driven by the finding that colobine primates showed a moderate aversion to condensed tannins. Conversely, there was no evidence that PSMs had a significant deterrent effect on food choices of non-colobine primates when all were combined into a single group. Furthermore, within the colobine primates, no other PSMs influenced feeding choices and we found no evidence that foregut anatomy significantly affected food choice with respect to PSMs. We suggest that methodological improvements related to experimental approaches and the adoption of new techniques including metabolomics are needed to advance our understanding of primate diet choice. K E Y W O R D S meta-analysis, metabolomics, phylogeny, plant secondary metabolites, tannins Am J Primatol. 2022;e23397. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/ajp |
... Large trees produce fruit, flowers, or leaves for several consecutive weeks and are not completely depleted after a foraging bout by a single group [24]. Moreover, because most primates travel hundreds or thousands of metres each day to feeding patches of different plant species in order to meet their nutritional goals [25], groups are unlikely to be able to monopolize a single resource for an entire day or fruiting period. As a result, these resources may engender intergroup contests in which both winners and losers reap foraging benefits. ...
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... This makes this an example of "hunting by expectation" (Hodges, 1981), a situation also known for nectar feeding with tamarins (Saguinus mystax and Saguinus fuscicollis : Garber, 1988). Thus, while it is important to consider the nutrient-balancing framework of primate foraging decision-making (Raubenheimer et al., 2009(Raubenheimer et al., , 2015, this and optimality are complimentary, because spatially aggregated foods must be found and then, once located, distinguished between for the highest nutrient reward with the lowest time/energy expenditure. ...
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... Right-angled mixture triangles (RMTs) are two-dimensional representations of threecomponent mixtures (e.g., individual foods, observed diets) that provide a proportions-based approach rooted in nutritional geometry shown to be highly effective in illustrating field-based research (Raubenheimer, 2011;Raubenheimer et al., 2015). For example, three components in the standard two-dimensional Euclidean plot are represented by the X, Y , and Z axes, where Z is the implicit axis (= 100% − y-value − xvalue), consequently causing the focal axes (X and Y ) to be constrained along the line intersecting the point (100 − Z%) on each axis (Raubenheimer, 2011). ...
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Flowers are ubiquitous in primate environments, yet their nutritional advantages are underexamined. Symphonia globulifera is a widely distributed tree exploited by a variety of animals in Africa and the Americas. We collected S. globulifera flower samples consumed by red-tailed monkeys ( Cercopithecus ascanius ) and compared them nutritionally to flower samples from other plant species in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Flowers were assayed for three fiber fractions (NDF, ADF, lignin), fat, crude protein, acid detergent insoluble nitrogen (ADIN), ash, and soluble sugars. We estimated available protein, total nonstructural carbohydrates (TNC), and metabolizable energy (ME). We calculated the mean and standard deviation for all nutrient categories and applied nutritional geometry to illustrate the balance among the energetic gains from available protein, fat, fiber, and TNC across flower species. Our results suggest that S. globulifera flowers provide an unusually high fat resource (14.82% ± 1.41%) relative to other flowers (1.38% ± 5.79%) and other foods exploited in the same habitat.
... Compared to a standard medium with a usual sucrose content of 5% (w/v), an HSD contains an elevated amount of sucrose, glucose or fructose, often with a total sugar content of approximately 20-30% (w/v) [126]. Based on the geometry of nutrition, this results in proportionally lower levels of proteins and fats [127]. ...
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Chapter
The fundamental biological drivers of dietary intake are no different in humans than other species, from insects in laboratory studies to wild primates in natural ecologies. In this chapter, the authors show how research, initially on insects and subsequently many other species (from single cellular slime molds to apes in the wild), has suggested a new ecologically inspired approach for understanding the roles of biology, environment, and their interactions in driving the obesity epidemic, and potentially identifying solutions. They explain the theoretical foundations for the approach, illustrate its application to addressing relevant questions in some non‐human species, and show how it has been applied in studies of humans. Recent research suggests that the protein leverage hypothesis might provide a new approach for integrating with existing public health frameworks to understand how human biology interacts with transitioning food environments to generate epidemics of obesity and associated disease.
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Nutrition has long been considered more the domain of medicine and agriculture than of the biological sciences, yet it touches and shapes all aspects of the natural world. The need for nutrients determines whether wild animals thrive, how populations evolve and decline, and how ecological communities are structured.The Nature of Nutritionis the first book to address nutrition's enormously complex role in biology, both at the level of individual organisms and in their broader ecological interactions. Stephen Simpson and David Raubenheimer provide a comprehensive theoretical approach to the analysis of nutrition--the Geometric Framework. They show how it can help us to understand the links between nutrition and the biology of individual animals, including the physiological mechanisms that determine the nutritional interactions of the animal with its environment, and the consequences of these interactions in terms of health, immune responses, and lifespan. Simpson and Raubenheimer explain how these effects translate into the collective behavior of groups and societies, and in turn influence food webs and the structure of ecosystems. Then they demonstrate how the Geometric Framework can be used to tackle issues in applied nutrition, such as the problem of optimizing diets for livestock and endangered species, and how it can also help to address the epidemic of human obesity and metabolic disease.
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