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Gorilla diet in the lope reserve gabon a nutritional analysis


, : Gorilla diet in the lope reserve gabon a nutritional analysis. Oecologia (Berlin) 84(3): 326-339

The results of an analysis of gorilla diet in the Lope Reserve, Gabon are presented. Samples were assayed for nutrients and plant secondary compounds (total phenols, condensed tannins and alkaloids) in an attempt to explain gorilla food choice. The diet is the most diverse so far analysed for gorillas; it seems to be a balance between sugary fruit, proteinaceous leaves, and relatively fibrous stems. Most fruits and herbaceous stems are succulent, but some drier, fibrous fruit and bark is also consumed. Seeds are another component of the diet, including unripe ones. Fruit, seeds, leaves and bark may all contain very high levels of total phenols and condensed tannins; but all herbaceous stems assayed contain low levels of these compounds. Alkaloids are not apparently a significant component of gorilla foods, and may be avoided. Gorillas at Lope tend to avoid fatty fruit, and select leaves which are high in protein and low in fibre compared to the general vegetation. When fruit and preferred young leaves are scarce, proteinaceous barks and mature leaves, and sugary pith, are important sources of nutrients. We conclude that gorillas exploit the broad frugivore niche in West African lowland forests, and are part of the frugivore community there. What distinguishes them is their ability to eat large fibrous fruit, mature leaves and stems, and to overcome high levels of phenolices (we use "phenolics" as an umbrellas term for both total phenols and condensed tannins). Gorilla diet at Lope overlaps greatly with that of sympatric, frugivorous, primates, and resembles more closely that of chimpanzees than it does gorilla diet studied elsewhere in Africa.

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