International Journal of Primatology

, 16:475

Mountain gorilla geophagy: A possible seasonal behavior for dealing with the effects of dietary changes

  • William C. Mahaney
  • S. Aufreiter
  • R. G. V. Hancock
Article

DOI: 10.1007/BF02735798

Cite this article as:
Mahaney, W.C., Aufreiter, S. & Hancock, R.G.V. Int J Primatol (1995) 16: 475. doi:10.1007/BF02735798

Abstract

Geophageous Rwandan mountain gorillas excavate and eat weathered leucite-rich regolith (subsoil C horizons) from the slopes of Mount Visoke in the Virunga Mountains. In the months of the dry season, the gorillas reportedly ingest a halloysitic natural earth having a chemical composition similar to that of Kaopectate, a pharmaceutical used by humans to treat gastrointestinal upsets. Several plants known to contain potential toxins are consumed more heavily by gorillas in these months. New information from geochemical and mineral analyses suggests that geophagy may alleviate intestinal problems associated with changes in their diet because the ingested weathered regolith,containing halloysitic clay minerals, may act as a pharmaceutical agent that helps to adsorb toxins and to control dehydration in the dry season.

Key words

mountain gorillageophagysecondary plant compoundsclay minerals

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • William C. Mahaney
    • 1
  • S. Aufreiter
    • 2
  • R. G. V. Hancock
    • 2
  1. 1.Geomorphology and Pedology Laboratory, Atkinson CollegeYork UniversityNorth YorkCanada
  2. 2.SLOWPOKE Reactor Facility and Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied ChemistryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada