Great apes are the closest living relatives of humans. Physiological similarities between great apes and humans provide clues to identify which biological features in humans are primitive or derived from great apes. Vitamin A (VA) and carotenoid metabolism have been only partially studied in great apes, and comparisons between great apes and humans are not available. We aimed to investigate VA and carotenoid intake and plasma concentrations in great apes living in captivity, and to compare them to healthy humans. Dietary intakes of humans (n = 20) and, among the great apes, chimpanzees (n = 15) and orangutans (n = 5) were calculated. Plasma retinol (ROH), retinol-binding protein (RBP), retinyl esters, and major carotenoids were analyzed. The great ape diet was higher in VA than in humans, due to high intake of provitamin A carotenoids. Plasma ROH concentrations in great apes were similar to those in humans, but retinyl esters were higher in great apes than in humans. Differences in plasma carotenoid concentrations were observed between great apes and humans. Lutein was the main carotenoid in great apes, while β-carotene was the main carotenoid for humans. RBP concentrations did not differ between great apes and humans. The molar ratio of ROH to RBP was close to 1.0 in both great apes and humans. In conclusion, great apes show homeostatic ROH regulation, with high but physiological retinyl esters circulating in plasma. Furthermore, great apes show great selectivity in their plasmatic carotenoid concentration, which is not explained by dietary intake. Am J Phys Anthropol 131:236–242, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.