Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics

Lecture by Dr. Michael Wasserman, Indiana University Bloomington

08May2017 16:00 - 17:00


Title: Endocrine-Active Phytochemicals in Primate Diets: Prevalence Across the Order


Interactions between plant chemistry and the primate endocrine system have been largely overlooked.  However, a number of plant species that red colobus monkeys and mountain gorillas consume contain phytoestrogens, which appear to influence hormone levels and social behaviors.  To further examine the prevalence of phytoestrogens in the diets of primates, we analyzed the estrogenic activity of plant foods of other species in Kibale National Park, Uganda, including the chimpanzee, red-tailed monkey, blue monkey, black-and-white colobus, and baboon.  Of the 45 items tested, five had estrogenic activity at ERĪ².  These estrogenic items were unripe fruit and young and mature leaves of four species of Ficus.  Legumes (Fabaceae) are well known for containing phytoestrogens, but our research is showing that Moraceae also consistently contains these compounds.  Because Fabaceae and Moraceae are widespread across the tropics and make up an average of 23% of the wild primate diet (based on our meta-analysis of 50 species across the geographic distribution and phylogeny of primates), it is likely that most primates are consuming estrogenic plant species.  However, it may only be those species eating parts other than ripe fruits, as we have not yet detected estrogenic activity in any ripe fruit.  Nonetheless, primatologists examining how social and environmental factors influence the hormone levels of their study species should consider the possibility of such estrogenic plants confounding their results.


Location: Lecture room A1.10

  • Science Park 904

    Science Park 904 | 1098 XH Amsterdam
    +31 (0)20 525 8626

    Go to detailpage

Published by  IBED