Primates pp 823-835 | Cite as

Nutrition of Primates in Captivity

  • Duane E. Ullrey
Part of the Proceedings in Life Sciences book series (LIFE SCIENCES)


The evolutionary development of the order Primates has led to an extant world population of as many as 203 species in 56 genera and 15 families (Nowak and Paradiso, 1983). They differ remarkably in size, from a mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) weighing less than 100 g to the gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) weighing over 100 kg, and in natural dietary habits, from a galago (Galago elegantulus), a specialized gum eater, to the gelada (Theropithecus gelada), dependent on grass seeds, blades, and rhizomes. The morphologies of their digestive tracts range from a relatively simple tube, such as that of the angwantibo (Arctocebus calabarensis), to the much more complex arrangement of the forestomachs in langurs and colobids (subfamily Colobinae). These morphological features are related to the natural food supply, which is primarily invertebrates for the angwantibo and leaves, fruit, and flowers for the Colobinae. Many invertebrates are significant sources of protein and fat and require a relatively short and simple gut for their digestion. Leaves, flowers, and many fruits contain high concentrations of plant cell wall (cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin), none of which can be digested by mammalian enzymes. Thus, primates that depend on leaves as an important source of nutrients have developed gastrointestinal compartments designed to harbor symbiotic microorganisms that can digest cellulose and hemicellulose.


Neutral Detergent Fiber Acid Detergent Fiber Mouse Lemur Colobus Monkey Menadione Sodium Bisulfite 
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© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1986

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  • Duane E. Ullrey

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