The Other Side of Callitrichine Gummivory

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Abstract

Gummivory is rare among mammals. Within primates, however, there are species from many different taxa that feed on gums and other plant exudates (Nash, 1986). Why primates appear to be predisposed to gummivory is an intriguing question. Gum would not be considered an intrinsically high quality food. It is difficult to obtain and presumed to be difficult to digest (Van Soest, 1982). It generally contains little protein, no fat and no vitamins. Gums can contain tannins, phenolic compounds, and other chemicals that have potential adverse effects for animals that ingest them (Wrangham and Waterman, 1981; Nash and Whitten, 1989). Gums do provide complex carbohydrates, and often contain significant quantities of nutritionally important minerals. But on balance, gums would not appear to be particularly good food.