Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Do Wild Gorillas Eat Meat? : Addendum

As I looked back on my previous post on the possibility of wild gorillas eating meat I realized that I sounded unduly harsh in regards to Grit Schubert, the co-author of the study in question.

From what I've been able to learn about Schubert she is a fine and extremely dedicated scientist. After years studying wild gorillas and never finding any evidence that they, even occasionally, ingested other vertebrates it is understandable that she stated, " I don't think they are eating meat."

My argument is basically, the simplest answer is usually the right one. If animal DNA is found in another animal's scat it usually means the dropping belong to an omnivore/carnivore. The suggestion of the vertebrate DNA being an artifact seemed, to me, to be a more unlikely scenario. However, I contradicted myself a bit by admitting the evidence of gorillas actually eating meat was thin.

So, I apologize for my use of the term "unscientific" in regards to Grit Schubert's conclusion on the matter. Her opinion is based on what she has observed over many years. To change her mind completely based on one anomalous scat sample would be "unscientific". I was trying, very poorly as it turns out, to express my view that this sample should not be summarily dismissed simply because carnivorous/scavenging behavior has not yet been observed in gorillas. There was a time, after all, not too long ago, when chimps and bonobos were thought to be strictly herbivorous as well.

I still feel that based on this sample, and the fact that other great apes do eat meat and fish, the possibility that gorillas, at least occasionally, eat meat is a real one. I don't think that possibility should simply be dismissed. However, concrete proof has yet to be found.

So, while it remains a matter of conjecture whether or not gorillas are sometimes omnivorous one thing is for sure. The old Texas Cryptid Hunter does, at least occasionally, dine on crow.