Orangutans are highly intelligent, critically endangered great apes that live in the tropical forests of Sumatra and Borneo. Along with chimpanzees, gorillas, and bonobos, orangutans are remarkably similar to humans in terms of anatomy, physiology, and behavior.
Nutrition is critical to the health of humans and other primates, but we are still discovering how primate nutritional strategies affect the health of wild primates. Orangutans are a useful model for understanding human evolution because orangutans share several adaptations with us, including the propensity to store fat and utilize fat reserves when food is scarce.
Studying wild orangutans offers a unique opportunity to integrate metabolic physiology and health with foraging in an ecological context, providing a natural experiment to examine the multi-dimensional relationships of nutrition, energetics, and health. Primate dietary ecologist Dr. Erin Vogel will discuss how information from diet, behavior, and physiology can help us understand how orangutans are adapted for survival in Borneo’s forests and shed light on the current obesity epidemic in modern day humans.
This lecture is presented in partnership with the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Houston Zoo. It is sponsored by The Brown Foundation Inc. with additional support from Ann and Gordon Getty and Camilla and George Smith.