Your appetite grows whenever you smell something delicious or lay eyes upon scrumptious-looking food. But you just might lose said appetite if the same food existed in a disgusting or undesirable setting, such as one with gross or unsanitary conditions.
As it would seem, this factor doesn’t just apply to humans; researchers from Kyoto University report documenting similar behavior in bonobos, one of our closest primate relatives alongside chimpanzees. The findings were published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B this week.
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The researchers, curious as to how the bonobos would respond, presented the animals with tidbits of food under peculiar circumstances. Some of the experiments involved food laced with dirt or feces; others involved attempts to trigger disgust through foul odors.
In virtually every instance, the bonobos dodged the tainted food samples while happily gobbling up the clean counterparts.
Video Credit: Kyoto University
"Current studies suggest that animals evolved a system to protect against such threats, now known as the adaptive system of disgust," explained Cecile Sarabian, the lead author of the study.
"For example, bodily fluids are universal disgust elicitors in humans, and recently, we published evidence that the same reaction exists in our primate cousins."
The results underscore how bonobos are consciously aware of their food and when eating it may pose health risks. Notably, humans react to contaminated foods or eating in gross environments in comparable ways by avoiding them to keep the potential consequence of illness at bay.
"These results fit with what one would expect if bonobos had a system of disgust driving their behavioral decision making," Sarabian continued.
"Interestingly though, bonobo infants and juveniles showed much less precaution, matching human infant behavior in similar contexts."
The study highlights some interesting points. Humans are some of the world’s pickiest eaters, and only a handful of animals seem to follow our footsteps. Further research may indicate whether any other animals lose their appetites to food under undesirable circumstances.