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it comes from time to time in discussion with people regarding food choices (meat/vegetarian/ vegan), meat eaters usually bring this up, what i don't understand is that our closest relatives, the great apes, like chimps, bonobos etc. primarily eat fruits and leaves and than apes like chimps eat insects and very seldom eat meat, which has been noted to only about 1.4% (http://www.wildchimps.org/wcf/english/files/chimp4.htm), the same is true for other great apes too, which i think are loosely classified when it comes to their dietary habits. 

So, my question is does eating just 1.4% meat makes the apes omnivores? 

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Bears are omnivores, too (with the exception of polar bears) but they need more meat than plants.

Depends. Pandas are bears, aren't they? Even brown bears aren't as carnivorous as it's often assumed (from Wikipedia:)

Despite their reputation, most brown bears are not highly carnivorous, as they derive up to 90% of their dietary food energy from vegetable matter.

Yes, good correction. Pandas are bears too and they are exclusive bamboo eaters. Interestingly enough, they still have umami receptors, which shows they evolved from meat-eating (or omnivore) ancestors. I did not know that brown bears got most of their nourishment from plants. Interesting!

In any case, just to clarify, a biologist's definition of "omnivore" or "carnivore" or "insectivore", or "herbivore", "frugivore", etc., refers to the adaptations and he main sources of food an animal has evolved to eat. Exceptions for medication or for desperation do not really count for much, in terms of changing how a biologist will classify an animal. In any case, the classifications are not rigid, it's not, if you eat 5% of this, then we change category, etc. Therefore it is more or less pointless to quibble about the definitions in this sense. The only biologically meaningful definition is the one above. 

in the case of chimps, one would need to scout the scientific literature but it would depend on how frequently chimps hunt for the purpose of eating meat, in the wild. Studying these behaviors and making observations and calculating exactly how much nutrition chimps derive from different food in the wild is very difficult. what appears to be pretty clear is that chimps hunt frequently enough that it has been observed many times in the wild. I would bet most primatologists would not have any problems considering chimps as omnivores (see this article, for example). 

Also, it's interesting to note that what an animal eats (or ate, we can even measure this in a fossil animal) can be deduced from isotopic ratios of carbon and nitrogen, using bone, hair, etc. Even what type of plant foods or animal foods (fish vs meat, insects, etc.) an animal is consuming can be deduced from these tissue measurements of isotopes. Apparently Australopithecus meat consumption was at ~25%, for example (see here; this publication is free access).

chimps do not usually hunt for nutrition as hunting is very sporadic with months of no hunting or meat eating....... this article gives some insight....

http://www.ecologos.org/chimphunt.htm

They sure eat a fair amount of termites, which are not exactly plants. 

So, what are you arguing, that biologists should change the definition of omnivore and exclude insects or set a fixed % of "meat" that below that, you'd say the animal is a plant eater? What's wrong with saying an animal is an omnivore with a mostly plant-based diet, if this animal actively seeks insects and other animals such as other primates?

 Termites, Macrotermes bellicosus, are the most significant insect consumed in Gombe, representing "87.4% ... and ... 86.3%" of the total time spent on eating insects in the two years documented, and since this feeding is sporadic, highly seasonal, and it peaks in the month of November when the hives split to form new colonies, it is clear that this is opportunistic feeding, and not related to any real nutritional need which would be indicated by daily consumption.  Thus, chimp insect-eating is remarkably similar to humans eating junk-food for social, or opportunistic, rather than legitimate nutritional, purposes.


This quote comes from here. It's NOT a scientific publication. In that same article, they claim meat-eating for chimps is "a social pathology, as it is on humans."  Hardly a scientific statement.

why i am arguing this is that if biologists had a better classification system, they would dispel a big myth with meat eaters and help humans with a lot of chronic diseases that stem from meat eating. you should not call an animal an omnivore when the animal doesn't even use meat to get any nutritional value from it.

But, the point is, chimps do digest the meat and the termites and they DO extract nutrients from them, it's not just "roughage" or the equivalent of eating plastic. We extract nutrients from junk food. What do you think a nutrient means? Something that can be used by an organism's metabolism, plain and simple.

Biologists continue to do their part to convince people to eat mostly (or only) plant-based foods, but showing time and again that eating a very rich meat or animal products-based diet, especially factory farmed meat, is really, really bad for you, the same way that smoking is bad for you, not exercising is bad for you, etc.

Do you really think that if biologists called chimps a frugivore or herbivore, that would convince people to stop eating meat? That would have zero effect on the decisions people make with respect to what they eat.

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