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Folia Primatol (Basel). 1993;61(1):1-20.

Chemical composition of baboon plant foods: implications for the interpretation of intra- and interspecific differences in diet.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of St. Andrews, UK.


Information on the chemical composition of baboon foods from the Laikipia Plateau, Kenya, is presented. Despite some differences in methods, results of analyses performed on the same foods at different sites were found to be extremely consistent, encouraging the view that meaningful intra- and interspecific comparisons of diet selection are feasible. Contrary to assumptions in the literature, no relationship between the abundance of food types and their chemical composition was found, nor was the foliage eaten by the baboons found to be a low-quality or high-fibre item in comparison with fruits and storage organs. Emphasis is placed on the need for caution in the use of simplistic dietary taxonomies which imply phytochemical and ecological homogeneity within broad food categories. Comparisons between three species revealed marked differences in the chemical composition of their diets; in particular, baboon diets were found to be higher in protein and lower in fibre than those of either lowland gorillas or Malaysian leaf monkeys, and differences in condensed tannin levels were also found. The relationship between these differences and the socio-ecology of the three species is discussed.

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