The taste responsiveness of six squirrel monkeys, five pigtail macaques, four olive baboons, and four spider monkeys to polycose, a starch-derived polysaccharide, was assessed in two-bottle preference tests of brief duration (2 min). In experiment 1, the monkeys were given the choice between tap water and defined concentrations of polycose dissolved in tap water. In experiment 2, the animals were given the choice between polycose and sucrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, and maltose presented in equimolar concentrations of 100 and 200 mM, respectively. The animals were found to prefer concentrations of polycose as low as 10 mM (pigtail macaques), 30 mM (olive baboons and spider monkeys), and 60 mM (squirrel monkeys) over tap water. Relative taste preferences were stable across the concentrations tested and indicate an order of relative effectiveness (sucrose > polycose ≥ maltose) in squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys, and olive baboons that is similar to the order of relative sweetness in humans. Pigtail macaques, however, displayed an order of relative effectiveness (maltose > polycose ≥ sucrose) that differs markedly from that found in the other primate species tested and is similar to relative taste preferences found in rodents such as rats. Both the high sensitivity of the pigtail macaques to polycose and their vivid predilection for this polysaccharide and its disaccharide constituent maltose suggest that Macaca nemestrina, unlike other primates, but like rodents, may have specialized taste receptors for starch.
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