Potential applications of urinary C-peptide of insulin for comparative energetics research



The study of comparative energetics offers a valuable way to identify broad ecological principles and assess the functional significance of energetic adaptations during the course of evolution. Yet, the quantification of energetic status for nonhuman primates under natural conditions remains one of the most challenging aspects of comparative energetics research. Here, we report on the development of a noninvasive field method for measuring energetic status in great apes, humans, and possibly other nonhuman primates. Specifically, we have explored measurement of a urinary metabolite of insulin (C-peptide) as a physiological marker of energetic condition in chimpanzees and orangutans. We performed three validation studies and successfully measured C-peptide in urine samples from captive chimpanzees, wild chimpanzees, and wild orangutans. Urinary C-peptide measures gave indications of being a reliable signal of energetic status in both species. For chimpanzees and orangutans in the wild, baseline urinary C-peptide levels were higher during periods of fruit abundance than periods of low fruit availability. Urinary C-peptide levels were also higher for well-fed captive chimpanzees compared with wild chimpanzees. Although sample size was small, top-ranking male chimpanzees showed higher C-peptide levels in the wild than low-ranking males only during the period of fruit abundance. These preliminary results indicate that further development of the urinary C-peptide method could expand opportunities to quantify energetic condition for great apes in the wild and generate new data for comparative research. We highlight specific applications for studying great ape reproduction as well as the nutritional ecology of human foragers. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.