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International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 103–128 | Cite as

Acacia gum and its use by bushbabies,Galago senegalensis (Primates: Lorisidae)

  • S. K. Bearder
  • R. D. Martin
Article

Abstract

Lesser bushbabies (Galago senegalensis moholi)were studied by radiotracking over a 2-year period (August 1975 to August 1977)at a thornveld study site in the Northern Transvaal, South Africa. It was confirmed that the diet consisted exclusively of plant exudates (gums) and arthropods;available fruits were never eaten. The gums were taken from the trunks and branches of Acaciatrees, particularly from Acacia karroo(the major source), from A. tortilis,and to a small extent from A. nilotica.Chemical analysis shows that gums consist predominantly of carbohydrates and water, with small quantities of fiber, protein, and minerals (notably calcium, magnesium, and potassium). Thus, the gums probably present first and foremost a source of carbohydrate in the diet of the lesser bushbaby, though it seems likely that special mechanisms must exist for digestion of the polymerized pentose and hexose sugars. The calcium content of the gums (approx. 1% by weight) is probably significant in offsetting the low calcium content of the arthropod prey, and their high calcium:phosphorus ratio may well counterbalance the low calcium:phosphorus ratio of the arthropods. The gums are apparently produced largely in response to insect activity. Larvae of beetles (families Cerambycidae,Buprestidae, and Elateridae) and of moths (family Coccidae) bore channels beneath the tree surface, and gum is liberated through apertures made during invasion of the host Acacia.Fly larvae (family Odiniidae) may also develop in the gumfilled cavities. Gum exuding onto the surface is collected by the bushbabies on regular nightly visits, and firm evidence was obtained, in the form of characteristic marks on trap baseboards and certain gum sites, that the toothscraper in the lower jaw is used to scoop away gum from tree surfaces. Foraging for, and feeding upon, gum increased during the winter months, which may be particularly harsh in certain years. In the especially cold winter covered by the study, insect availability was minimal and the lesser bushbabies fed mainly on gum, with some of them reducing their total activity period during the night. Gums are available throughout the year and detailed records indicated no clearcut seasonal pattern of gum production. They are therefore an important yearround food resource for the lesser bushbabies. Feeding on gums has been reported for a wide range of primate species in recent years (especially for various species of the families Cheirogaleidae, Lorisidae, and Callitrichidae), and these plant exudates must now be regarded as an important dietary category within the order Primates.

Key words

bushbabies field study gums primate nutrition tooth-scraper 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. K. Bearder
    • 1
  • R. D. Martin
    • 2
  1. 1.Wellcome Laboratories of Comparative PhysiologyThe Zoological Society of LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Wellcome Laboratories of Comparative PhysiologyThe Zoological Society of LondonLondonUK

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