Differences in novel food response between Pongo and Pan

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Sofia Ingrid Fredrika Forss, Alba Motes-Rodrigo, Christine Hrubesch, Claudio Tennie
American Journal of Primatology
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The diversity of great ape diets requires behavioral flexibility. Consequently, the exploration of potentially novel food sources is supposedly beneficial, but simultaneously, apes show high neophobia to prevent harmful and poisonous food intake. Social information, such as presence of group members or observations of non-naïve, experienced individuals have been demonstrated to affect the acceptance of novel food items in primates. Sociality may have evolutionary effects on the response of apes to novel foods. Here we assess the social information hypothesis, which predicts that selection favors higher neophobia in species where social information is abundant. We report the results from 134 great apes housed in multiple facilities from four closely related species that naturally differ in their degree of sociality: Pongo pygmaeus, Pongo abelii, Pan troglodytes and Pan paniscus. We examined individuals’ reactions to novel foods when alone, which enabled us to detect any inherent differences and revealed significant distinctions between species. Chimpanzees and bonobos, that are naturally exposed to higher amounts of social information, were less likely to consume novel foods alone (showed higher neophobia) than the two more solitary orangutan species. Chimpanzees were especially cautious and showed higher explorative behaviors before tasting novel food than other species. Age influenced neophobia as younger individuals of all species took longer to taste novel foods than adults did.


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