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Comparative studies of taste perception have found that primates may differ markedly in their sensitivity for substances perceived as sweet by humans. These findings raise questions about the reason that may underlie these differences in sweet-taste sensitivity between species. The aim of the present study was to assess the taste responsiveness of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) to seven substances tasting sweet to humans and to compare the results with those of other primate species. By using a two-bottle preference test (1 min) it was found that the taste preference thresholds of the chimpanzees for five food-associated carbohydrates ranged between 20-30 mM for sucrose, 20-50 mM for fructose, 60-80 mM for glucose, 50-80 mM for maltose, and 30-80 mM for lactose. Taste preference thresholds for two steviol glycosides ranged from 0.04-0.05 mM for stevioside, and 0.03-0.05 mM for rebaudioside A. The chimpanzees displayed clear preferences for all sweet-tasting substances presented. In line with data obtained in other primates, the taste preference threshold of the chimpanzees for sucrose was lower compared to the other carbohydrates presented and the taste preference thresholds for stevioside and rebaudioside A were lower compared to sucrose. In general, the taste sensitivity of the chimpanzees fell into the range of data reported in other nonhuman primate species. Interestingly, the taste preference thresholds of the chimpanzees reported here are similar to the taste detection thresholds obtained in humans, despite the fact that the former are only a conservative approximation of an animal’s taste sensitivity. This suggests that chimpanzees may be as sweet-taste sensitive as humans.

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Last updated: 04/27/17