Verspeek, J., Stevens, J. M. G. 2020. Food preference and nutrient composition in captive bonobos (Pan paniscus). Primates 61(5), 661-671.

Food preference has been studied in a range of Hominoidea in the wild and in captivity, allowing for interspecific comparisons. Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) prefer low-fibre, high-sugar foods, suggesting that frugivory and their dietary overlap are a result of their shared preference for the same nutrients. Comparable tests of the nutritional preference of bonobos do not exist. In this study we examined food preferences of five captive bonobos for 23 familiar and ten novel food items. We performed paired-choice food tests, resulting in a clear rank order in food preference, with minor individual differences. Fruits were more preferred than vegetables. We correlated nutritional composition of the food items with the bonobos’ preference. We found that preferences for familiar food items were positively correlated with total energy and carbohydrate content and negatively correlated with water and micronutrient (sodium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, manganese, selenium) content. Food preference for the novel food items also showed a significant positive correlation with total energy and carbohydrate content. Our study supports the idea that food preference among bonobos follows the pattern of the other great apes and that the shared frugivorous diets may be the result of a common preference for the same nutrients. In the wild, these preferences may be less clear due to the interference of preferred nutrients with secondary compounds. Combining food preference data and nutritional information can help in providing a healthy diet with a balanced nutrient composition in captivity. Individual food preferences can help in optimizing food choice for positive reinforcement training and food-related tasks in future research.

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