Body size and fatness of free-living baboons reflect food availability and activity levels

Authors

  • Jeanne Altmann,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
    2. Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya
    3. Department of Conservation Biology, Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield, Illinois
    • Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, 940 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
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  • Dale Schoeller,

    1. Clinical Nutrition Research Unit, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
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  • Stuart A. Altmann,

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
    2. Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya
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  • Philip Muruthi,

    1. Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya
    2. Department of Conservation Biology, Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield, Illinois
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  • Robert M. Sapolsky

    1. Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya
    2. Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California
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Abstract

We used morphometric techniques and isotope-labeled water to investigate the influence of abundant, accessible food and resultant low activity levels on body size and fatness in free-living adolescent and adult baboons as compared to animals in the same population that experienced more typical, wild-feeding conditions. Females that had access to abundant food from a nearby garbage dump averaged 16.7 kg body mass, 50% more than their wild-feeding counterparts in adjacent home ranges. Little of the difference was due to lean mass: the animals with an accessible abundance of food averaged 23.2% body fat in contrast to 1.9% for the wild-feeding animals. Significant differences between feeding conditions were found for all measured skinfolds and for upper arm circumference but not for linear measurements. Differences between feeding conditions were less for males than for females, perhaps reflecting persistent effects of nutritional conditions during the first eight years of life before dispersal from the group of birth. The difference in fatness between feeding conditions was similar to the difference between humans with frank obesity and those that are considered lean, but in both cases the percentages of body fat in the baboons were considerably less than those observed in humans. In levels of fatness, the relatively sedentary animals resembled their counterparts in group-housed captive conditions. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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