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Am J Primatol 2021 Mar 01;833:e23239. doi: 10.1002/ajp.23239.
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Condensed tannins in the diet of folivorous diademed sifakas and the gap between crude and available protein.

Thurau EG , Rahajanirina AN , Irwin MT .

Tannins, a type of plant secondary metabolite, are well-known for their ability to precipitate proteins and thereby reduce the protein available to consumers. Most primate studies have focused on condensed tannins (CTs) as they were thought to be the most effective type of tannin at preventing protein acquisition, but there is growing recognition that other types of tannins can bind to proteins, suggesting the division among tannin types is not as clear-cut as previously thought. Although previous studies have documented the presence of CTs in primate diets and primates' behavioral responses to them, our understanding of tannins remains limited because few researchers have used Sephadex column purification to accurately determine tannin concentrations, and few have used in vitro assays to determine available protein content and the tannins' effectiveness in binding protein. In this study, we documented diademed sifaka (Propithecus diadema) diet from June to August 2018 at Tsinjoarivo, Madagascar (in two forests with varying degrees of habitat disturbance) and quantified CT concentration and actual available protein in foods. Eleven of the fourteen top foods tested contained CTs (concentrations: 4.8%-39.3% dry matter). An in vitro assay showed available protein was strikingly low in six of the eleven top foods (e.g., little to no apparent available protein, despite high crude protein). Overall, our findings suggest sifakas acquire less protein than previously recognized and probably have adaptations to counteract tannins. Such studies of available protein are critical in understanding dietary constraints on sifaka populations and the evolution of their diet choice strategies; despite the conventional wisdom that leaves are protein-rich, folivorous primates may indeed be protein-limited. However, further studies are necessary to determine if sifakas have counter-adaptations to tannins, and if they absorb more protein than our analyses suggest, perhaps receiving protein that we were unable to detect with the current techniques (e.g., pollen).

PubMed ID: 33544402
Article link: Am J Primatol