Structuration des comportements alimentaires chez l’Homme. Apport comparé des modèles primates non humains

How do humans acquire their adult feeding patterns? What non-human primates can tell us

Résumé

Les modalités d’acquisition des comportements alimentaires chez les primates défient les explications théoriques issues de la théorie des histoires de vie. Comment expliquer que chez l’homme, par exemple, l’enfant soit sevré plus rapidement que les jeunes des autres espèces anthropoïdes ? Afin d’appréhender les déterminants du développement des comportements alimentaires chez les primates, la maturation des habitudes alimentaires de quatre lémuriens (lémurien brun, lémurien à front roux, lémur catta, propithèque de Verreaux) et un simien (macaque du Japon) au cours de leurs premiers mois d’existence a été étudiée. Il est apparu que l’acquisition des comportements alimentaires chez ces espèces est précoce et correspond à la phase de transition alimentaire lait-nourriture solide. Elle repose sur des apprentissages individuels et socialement favorisés lors des alimentations synchronisées mère-jeune et sur un apprentissage social de type apprentissage par stimulation chez le macaque du Japon. Les jeunes macaques montrent un intérêt particulier pour les aliments rares au moment où ils sont consommés par les adultes. Ces observations confirment les résultats de l’unique étude à disposition chez l’Homme (Nicklaus et al., 2005) qui montre que les préférences alimentaires adultes sont principalement corrélées aux habitudes de consommation des enfants âgés de moins de 5 ans. Elles mettent aussi en avant l’importance de la durée de l’investissement maternel dans la mise en place d’apprentissages complexes.

Abstract

How young non-human primates and human infants acquire their adult feeding behaviour is a question that challenges the theoretical explanations derived from life history theory. Why, for example, are human infants weaned sooner than other anthropoids? In order to discern the factors that determine the development of feeding behaviour in primates, we made a study of 4 young lemurs (brown, redfronted, ring-tailed and white sifaka) and a Japanese macaque during the first months of their lives.We found that adult feeding behaviour in these species is acquired at a very young age, at the time when the young animals are weaned off milk and onto solid food. In lemurs, the individual learning process is encouraged socially as mothers and their young synchronise their feeding, while the learning process in young Japanese macaques is stimulated by the social group. The young Japanese macaques were very attentive to unusual food when it was being consumed by their elders. Our observations concur with the results of the only available study on humans (Nicklaus et al., 2005), which shows that food preferences in adult humans are mainly correlated with the feeding habits acquired by children before the age of 5. They also shed light on the importance of the duration of maternal investment in complex learning processes.

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Correspondence to L. Tarnaud.

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Tarnaud, L. Structuration des comportements alimentaires chez l’Homme. Apport comparé des modèles primates non humains. BMSAP 26, 178–183 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13219-014-0109-y

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Mots clés

  • Alimentation
  • Apprentissage
  • Investissement maternel
  • Lémuriens
  • Macaque du Japon: Phase de développement

Keywords

  • Feeding
  • Learning
  • Maternal investment
  • Lemurs
  • Japanese macaque
  • Developmental phase