Nutritional quality of gorilla diets: consequences of age, sex, and season
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We tested the effects of age, sex, and season on the nutritional strategies of a group of mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei) in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. Through observations of food intake of individual gorillas and nutritional analyses of dietary components over different seasons and environments, we estimated nutrient intake and evaluated diet adequacy. Our results suggest that the nutritional costs of reproduction and growth affect nutrient intake; growing juveniles and adult females ate more food and more protein per kilogram of metabolic body mass than did silverbacks. The diets of silverback males, adult females, and juveniles contained similar concentrations of protein, fiber, and sugar, indicating that adult females and juveniles did not select higher protein foods than silverbacks but rather consumed more dry matter to ingest more protein. Juveniles consumed more minerals (Ca, P, Mg, K, Fe, Zn, Mn, Mo) per kilogram of body mass than adult females and silverback males, and juveniles consumed diets with higher concentrations of phosphorous, iron, and zinc, indicating that the foods they ate contained higher concentrations of these minerals. Seasonally, the amount of food consumed on a dry weight basis did not vary, but with increased frugivory, dietary concentrations of protein and fiber decreased and those of water-soluble carbohydrates increased. Energy intake did not change over the year. With the exception of sodium, gorillas ate diets that exceeded human nutrient requirements. A better understanding of the relative importance of food quantity and quality for different age–sex classes provides insights into the ways in which gorillas may be limited by food resources when faced with environmental heterogeneity.