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Keywords:

  • taste difference thresholds;
  • monosodium glutamate;
  • sodium chloride;
  • pigtail macaques;
  • spider monkeys

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine taste difference thresholds for monosodium glutamate (MSG) and sodium chloride (NaCl) in pigtail macaques (Macaca nemestrina) and spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi). Using a two-bottle preference test of brief duration, three animals of each species were presented with four different reference concentrations of 50, 100, 200, and 400 mM of a tastant and tested for their ability to discriminate these from lower concentrations of the same tastant. The just noticeable differences (JNDs), expressed as Weber ratios (ΔI/I), were found to range from 0.1 to 0.5 for MSG and 0.2 to 0.45 for NaCl in the pigtail macaques, with a significant tendency for higher Weber ratios with higher reference concentrations. In the spider monkeys, JNDs ranged from 0.15 to 0.4 for MSG and 0.1 to 0.25 for NaCl, with Weber ratios staying fairly constant across the reference concentrations tested. Thus, the JNDs were found to be generally similar in both species and to be at least as low as those found in humans for MSG and NaCl, as well as those found in spider monkeys for sucrose. The results support the assumption that both pigtail macaques and spider monkeys may use differences in perceived intensity of MSG and NaCl as a criterion for food selection. Am. J. Primatol. 70:839–847, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.