Daniel Dausch Ibañez, Laura Teresa Hernandez Salazar, M. Laska
Oct 17, 2019
Recent studies suggest that frugivorous primates might display a preference for the ethanol produced by microbia in overripe, fermenting fruit as an additional source of calories. We therefore assessed the taste responsiveness of eight spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) to the range of ethanol concentrations found in overripe, fermenting fruit (0.05-3.0%) and determined taste preference thresholds as well as relative taste preferences for ethanol presented in sucrose solutions and in fruit matrices, respectively. Using a two-bottle preference test of short duration (1 min) we found that spider monkeys are able to detect ethanol concentrations as low as 0.5%, that they prefer ethanol concentrations up to 3% over water, and that they prefer sucrose solutions and pureed fruit spiked with ethanol over equimolar sucrose solutions and pureed fruit without ethanol. However, when presented with an ethanol-spiked sucrose solution and a higher-concentrated sucrose solution without ethanol the animals clearly preferred the latter, even when the sucrose-ethanol mixture contained three times more calories. These results demonstrate that spider monkeys are more sensitive to the taste of ethanol than rats and humans, and that they prefer ecologically relevant suprathreshold concentrations of ethanol over water. Tests with sucrose solutions and pureed fruits that were either spiked with ethanol or not suggest that sweetness may be more important for the preferences displayed by the spider monkeys than the calories provided by ethanol. The present results therefore do not support the notion that dietary ethanol might be used by frugivorous primates as a supplemental source of calories.