For most animals, the ability to regulate intake of specific nutrients is vital to fitness. Recent studies have demonstrated nutrient regulation in nonhuman primates over periods of one observation day, though studies of humans indicate that such regulation extends to longer time frames. Little is known about longer-term regulation in nonhuman primates, however, due to the challenges of multiple-day focal follows. Here we present the first detailed study of nutrient intake across multiple days in a wild nonhuman primate. We conducted 30 consecutive all day follows on one female chacma baboon (Papio hamadryas ursinus) in the Cape Peninsula of South Africa. We documented dietary composition, compared the nutritional contribution of natural and human-derived foods to the diet, and quantified nutrient intake using the geometric framework of nutrition. Our focus on a single subject over consecutive days allowed us to examine daily dietary regulation within an individual over time. While the amounts varied daily, our subject maintained a strikingly consistent balance of protein to non-protein (fat and carbohydrate) energy across the month. Human-derived foods, while contributing a minority of the diet, were higher in fat and lower in fiber than naturally-derived foods. Our results demonstrate nutrient regulation on a daily basis in our subject, and demonstrate that she was able to maintain a diet with a constant proportional protein content despite wide variation in the composition of component foods. From a methodological perspective, the results of this study suggest that nutrient intake is best estimated over at least an entire day, with longer-term regulatory patterns (e.g., during development and reproduction) possibly requiring even longer sampling. From a management and conservation perspective, it is notable that nearly half the subject’s daily energy intake derived from exotic foods, including those currently being eradicated from the study area for replacement by indigenous vegetation.
Johnson, Caley A.; Raubenheimer, David; Rothman, Jessica M.; Clarke, David; and Swedell, Larissa, "30 Days in the Life: Daily Nutrient Balancing in a Wild Chacma Baboon" (2013). CUNY Academic Works.