Food transfers in immature wild western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)
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- Nowell, A.A. & Fletcher, A.W. Primates (2006) 47: 294. doi:10.1007/s10329-006-0181-0
The transfer of food items between individuals has been described in primates as serving an informative purpose in addition to supplementing the diet of immature individuals. This behaviour has yet to be described in western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), and results are presented here of observations of food transfers in immature gorillas at Mbeli Bai, Republic of Congo. The frequency of food transfers decreased with increasing immature age, while the frequency of independent feeding and processing of food increased. Transfers between mothers and infants were the most frequent, with infants attempting to take items from the mother. These attempts were not always successful and the item was relinquished on less than 50% of attempts. Mothers also took items from their offspring. The results point to the functional significance of food transfers in western lowland gorillas being informational. In a bai environment, where one species forms the majority of a visiting gorilla’s diet despite other species being available, the initiation of food transfers by immatures is proposed to serve the purpose of familiarising them with which species, and which parts of those species, may be eaten.