Soils Consumed by Chimpanzees of the Kanyawara Community in the Kibale Forest, Uganda
Authors: Mahaney, William; Milner, Michael; Aufreiter, Susanne; Hancock, R.; Wrangham, Richard; Campbell, Sean
Source: International Journal of Primatology, Volume 26, Number 6, December 2005 , pp. 1375-1398(24)
Abstract:We previously reported on a study of 4 soils that chimpanzees of the Kanyawara community in the Kibale National Park, Uganda consumed on a near-daily basis. We suggested that iron was a possible chemical stimulus in association with high quantities of Si:Al = 1:1-dominated clay minerals in the consumed material. To test our initial findings, we analyzed 18 samples from the same general area including 7 samples that the chimpanzees did not eat. Among the chemical elements, As, Au, Br, Ca, Cl, Dy, Mg, Ni, Sb, Sr, and I are below detection limits. Only Fe stands out as a potentially important nutritional element present in sufficient quantity to provide a physiological stimulus for chimpanzees living at high elevations near the flanks of the Ruwenzori Mountains. Along with Fe, metahalloysite is present in high amounts in these soils. In its pure crystalline form as a pharmaceutical grade clay mineral metahalloysite may well counteract the debilitating effects of diarrhea, with an effect similar to what is achieved with kaolinite (cf. KaopectateTM). An unexpected result, the relatively high nitrogen and carbon in the eaten samples relative to the uneaten group, indicates the chimpanzees may have a higher threshold for organic-rich material than previously believed. Contrarily, the color of the ingested material, depicts a material with less humus than in the uneaten group, a finding that is compatible with previous work reported at other geophagy sites in Africa. Of all the choices of soil available to them, the chimpanzees appear to be selecting highly homogeneous chemical natural earths with well-leached and uniform mineralogical material similar to the uneaten group, but with higher relative amounts of clay size material.
Document Type: Research Article
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Publication date: December 1, 2005