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Monkeys Are Becoming More And More Human-Like Due To Zoo Diets, Study Shows

First Posted: Sep 04, 2016 02:48 AM EDT
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Just like humans, monkeys in zoos are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. This may have led to them having "humanized" gut flora.

(Photo : Sean Gallup / Getty Images)

Everyone knows that monkeys are among humans' closest relatives. But currently making news are claims that they are becoming more human-like. This is especially true for captive monkeys whose diets are likewise becoming similar to those of humans. It is a fact that most humans don't eat enough fruits and vegetables and such bad habit has been inflicted in monkeys in the zoos. Apparently, their gut bacteria biome has been greatly affected.

According to IFL Science, University of Minnesota led a study which revealed that captive monkeys have already got "humanized" gut flora. Using poop samples from red-shanked doucs and mantled howler monkeys from zoos in different continents, researchers sequenced their gut bacteria's DNA and compare it to the biome in a wild counterpart. At present, red-shanked doucs and mantled howler monkeys are considered highly endangered.

The findings suggest that the zoo monkeys' guts were already dominated by Bacteroides and Prevotella, the same bacteria that dominate the digestive system of humans. They had almost lost their entire native natural gut bacteria. Additionally, researchers noticed that the wild monkeys' feces contained 40% plant DNA, whereas zoo monkeys contained almost none. For this, researchers believe that the issue was caused by lack of fruits and vegetables in their diet. Various factors are also linked to such findings, such as antibiotic use, geography, and genetic differences.

Nature World News reported that possible solutions are increasing the diversity of plant fiber in their diets or do fecal transplants from wild animals to zoo monkeys. This was according to Dan Knights, computer science and engineer professor at Minnesota.

The main concern here is the monkeys' health. Not known to many, humans' gut bacteria are linked to various conditions like anxiety, depression, obesity. Such concern calls for further studies that focus captive monkeys, their diet, and other factors related to the change in their gut bacteria biome.

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