JAKARTA — Orangutans in Borneo have been found to physically waste away when fruit is scarce — a finding with dire implications as human-driven climate change and the destruction of their habitat put their food supply under even greater threat. In a study recently published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers collected and analyzed urine samples from Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) in Indonesian Borneo to measure the change in their muscle mass between periods of fruit abundance and fruit shortage. Specifically, they looked for creatinine, a waste product formed when muscle breaks down, from 1,130 urine samples collected from 70 orangutans at the Tuanan research station in Central Kalimantan province from 2009 to 2017. The study, the first to examine estimated lean body mass in wild orangutans, found that the apes’ muscle mass was significantly lower during periods of low fruit availability. What’s surprising is how this phenomenon was detected consistently across all age-sex classes, even though orangutans are known to have a tendency to store fat, according to lead author Caitlin A. O’Connell from Rutgers University in the U.S. “We thought some types of individuals might be driven to muscle catabolism sometimes while others may be more buffered from experiencing muscle wasting,” she told Mongabay in an email. “Especially because orangutans are thought to be particularly good at storing fat to be utilized for energy during low fruit periods.” The study identifies the rainforests of Southeast Asia as “challenging habitats” for fruit-eating vertebrates, with food availability “particularly limited” in…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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