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J Hum Evol. 2014 Jun;71:46-58. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2013.09.014. Epub 2014 Apr 1.

The energetic and nutritional yields from insectivory for Kasekela chimpanzees.

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Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology, Department of Anthropology, The George Washington University, Washington, DC 20052, USA. Electronic address:
Nutrition Laboratory and Conservation Ecology Center, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park, Washington, DC 20008, USA. Electronic address:


Insectivory is hypothesized to be an important source of macronutrients, minerals, and vitamins for chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), yet nutritional data based on actual intake are lacking. Drawing on observations from 2008 to 2010 and recently published nutritional assays, we determined the energy, macronutrient and mineral yields for termite-fishing (Macrotermes), ant-dipping (Dorylus), and ant-fishing (Camponotus) by the Kasekela chimpanzees of Gombe National Park, Tanzania. We also estimated the yields from consumption of weaver ants (Oecophylla) and termite alates (Macrotermes and Pseudacanthotermes). On days when chimpanzees were observed to prey on insects, the time spent in insectivorous behavior ranged from <1 min to over 4 h. After excluding partial bouts and those of <1 min duration, ant-dipping bouts were of significantly shorter duration than the other two forms of tool-assisted insectivory but provided the highest mass intake rate. Termite-fishing bouts were of significantly longer duration than ant-dipping and had a lower mass intake rate, but provided higher mean and maximum mass yields. Ant-fishing bouts were comparable to termite-fishing bouts in duration but had significantly lower mass intake rates. Mean and maximum all-day yields from termite-fishing and ant-dipping contributed to or met estimated recommended intake (ERI) values for a broad array of minerals. The mean and maximum all-day yields of other insects consistently contributed to the ERI only for manganese. All forms of insectivory provided small but probably non-trivial amounts of fat and protein. We conclude that different forms of insectivory have the potential to address different nutritional needs for Kasekela chimpanzees. Other than honeybees, insects have received little attention as potential foods for hominins. Our results suggest that ants and (on a seasonal basis) termites would have been viable sources of fat, high-quality protein and minerals for extinct hominins employing Pan-like subsistence technology in East African woodlands.


Ants; Diet; Faunivory; Feeding rate; Pan troglodytes; Tanzania; Termites; Tool use

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