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Physiol Behav. 1994 Dec;56(6):1209-16.

Use of Vernonia amygdalina by wild chimpanzee: possible roles of its bitter and related constituents.

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  • 1Department of Food Science and Technology, Faculty of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Japan.


Bitter principles and related constituents have been isolated from Vernonia amygdalina (Compositae), a plant ingested by wild chimpanzees sometimes suffering from parasite-related diseases in the Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania. These isolated constituents were the known sesquiterpene lactones (vernodalin, vernolide, hydroxyvernolide), and new stigmastane-type steroid glucosides (vernonioside A1-A4: for bitter tasting constituents and vernonioside B1-B3; for nonbitter related constituents). Antiparasitic activity tests of these constituents together with quantitative analyses of the major active constituents, vernodalin and vernonioside B1, supported the hypothesis that Mahale chimpanzees control parasite-related diseases by ingesting the pith of this plant, found to contain several steroid-related constituents. While the major active steroid-related constituents (vernonioside B1 and its primary aglycone, vernoniol B1) do not taste bitter themselves, it was hypothesized that the highly bitter constituents including vernodalin may play an important role as signals to the ingester guiding their choice of the appropriate plant, plant part, and possibly also as signals which help to control the amount of intake.

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