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Keywords:

  • ants;
  • Dja Biosphere Reserve;
  • great apes;
  • nutrients;
  • termites

Abstract

The insect diet of chimpanzees and gorillas living at the northern periphery of the Dja Biosphere Reserve in southeast Cameroon and its nutritional contribution is described. We analyzed fecal samples and recorded additional evidence of insectivory. A detailed prey species list is presented for both apes. We carried out nutritional analyses (macronutrients, macro- and micro-minerals) on 11 important and eight nonimportant, but accessible, ant and termite prey species, and estimated the average nutrient intake/day through insects. Although gorillas ate insects more frequently, the average prey biomass intake/day by chimpanzees was twice that by gorillas. The lack of tool-use by gorillas cannot be the main reason for the small overlap of important prey species. Both apes did not seem to consume ant prey for one or more specific nutrients. Also other factors, such as medicinal use, should be considered. Termites, on the other hand, seemed to be selected for particular nutrients. Gorilla intake of the important termite prey, Cubitermes and Thoracotermes, met with estimated iron requirements. Their potential role as antidiarrheal treatment is as yet unclear. Chimpanzee intake of the important termite prey, Macrotermes spp., met with estimated manganese requirements and the protein intake/day (mean: 2 g/d) reached significant values (>20 g/d). To fully understand the importance of nutritional contributions of insects to ape diets in Cameroon, the chemical composition and nutrient intake of fruit and foliage in their diets should be investigated. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2008. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.