Primates are known to feed on a wide variety of plant and animal matter to meet their nutritional requirements. Field studies, however, reported that primates do not make dietary choices randomly, but instead are selective in order to maximize their intake of critical nutrients.
Food preferences related to nutritional content have been studied previously in primate and non-primate species:
- Squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus)
- Pigtail macaques (Macaca nemstrina)
- White-handed gibbons (Hylobates lar)
- Ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta)
- Spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi)
- Pacas (Agouti paca)
White-faced sakis (Pithecia pithecia) are Neotropical frugivorous seed predator primates with a habitat that ranges from dry to seasonally flooded forests across the north of South America. Their diet comprises a variety of fruits, leaves, insects and flowers. In contrast to most other frugivorous primate species that may act as seed dispersers, sakis prey heavily upon the seeds of the fruits they consume and are thought to exploit the nutrients contained in them
These Neotropical frugivorous seed predators have an adapted dental morphology and gut physiology, that allows for hard pericarp (fruit layer external to the seed) fruit and young seed exploitation. Their ability to exploit the nutritional content of seeds and eat fruit at more than one stage of maturity helps them avoid direct competition and dietary stress due to seasonal changes.
The aim of my study was to assess the occurrence of spontaneous food preferences and to evaluate possible correlations with nutrient composition.
My hypothesis was that they would display a preference for certain food options depending on their nutritional content.