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Annu Rev Entomol. 2013;58:141-60. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-120710-100713. Epub 2012 Oct 1.

Nutritional ecology of entomophagy in humans and other primates.

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Institute of Natural Sciences, Massey University, Auckland 0632, New Zealand.


Entomophagy is widespread among nonhuman primates and is common among many human communities. However, the extent and patterns of entomophagy vary substantially both in humans and nonhuman primates. Here we synthesize the literature to examine why humans and other primates eat insects and what accounts for the variation in the extent to which they do so. Variation in the availability of insects is clearly important, but less understood is the role of nutrients in entomophagy. We apply a multidimensional analytical approach, the right-angled mixture triangle, to published data on the macronutrient compositions of insects to address this. Results showed that insects eaten by humans spanned a wide range of protein-to-fat ratios but were generally nutrient dense, whereas insects with high protein-to-fat ratios were eaten by nonhuman primates. Although suggestive, our survey exposes a need for additional, standardized, data.

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