Influences on Gum Feeding in Primates

  • Andrew C. Smith
Part of the Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects book series (DIPR)


This chapter reviews the factors that may affect patterns of gum ­feeding by primates. These are then examined for mixed-species troops of saddleback (Saguinus fuscicollis) and mustached (Saguinus mystax) tamarins. An important distinction is made between gums produced by tree trunks and branches as a result of damage and those produced by seed pods as part of a dispersal strategy as these may be expected to differ in their biochemistry. Feeding on fruit and Parkia seed pod exudates was more prevalent in the morning whereas other exudates were eaten in the afternoon. This itinerary may represent a deliberate strategy to retain trunk gums in the gut overnight, thus maximising the potential for microbial fermentation of their β-linked oligosaccharides. Both types of exudates were eaten more in the dry than the wet season. Consumption was linked to seasonal changes in resource availability and not the tamarins’ reproductive status, providing no support for the suggestion that gums are eaten as a primary calcium source in the later stages of gestation and lactation. The role of availability in determining patterns of consumption is further supported by the finding that dietary overlap for the trunk gums eaten was greater between species within mixed-species troops within years than it was within species between years. These data and those for pygmy marmosets (Cebuella pygmaea) suggest that patterns of primate gummivory may reflect the interaction of preference and availability for both those able to stimulate gum production and those not.


Intestinal Adaptation Grey Mouse Lemur Sleep Tree Saddleback Tamarin Mustached Tamarin 
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I thank Dr. Anne Burrows for inviting me to participate in the symposium on the evolution of exudativory in primates at the XXIIth Congress of the International Primatological Society. My thoughts on tamarins and gum feeding have benefited from discussions with Eckhard Heymann, and this chapter benefited from Anne’s comments and those of Leanne Nash and two anonymous reviewers. I thank the Dirección General Forestal y de Fauna of the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture in Lima and the Dirección Regional de Recursos Naturales y de Medio Ambient of the Regional Government of Loreto in Iquitos for permission to carry out field research at the Estación Biológica Quebrada Blanco. I am indebted to the late Jaime Moro S. and to Enrique Montoya G., Filomeno Encarnación C., and Luis Moya I. for help and logistic support. Arsenio Calle Cordova, Camilo Flores Amasifuén, Emérita R. Tirado Herrera, and Ney Shahuano Tello all provided invaluable assistance in the field. Financial support was provided by Anglia Ruskin University’s Animal and Environmental Research Group and Central Sabbatical Scheme, The University of Reading and the BBSRC (98/S11498 to HM Buchanan-Smith).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Animal and Environmental Research Group, Department of Life SciencesAnglia Ruskin UniversityCambridgeUK

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