Grantee Spotlight: Research Grant 2016 – Mareike Janiak

Adaptations for insectivory in digestive enzymes of new world primates.

Mareike Janiak; twitter: @MareikeCora

My research looks at enzymes that are produced in the guts of primates. All animals produce these enzymes to help them digest the foods they eat and I am trying to figure out if different primates have specialized enzymes depending on what foods they eat on a regular basis. For example, does a monkey that eats a lot of insects produce an enzyme to break down the tough exoskeletons of insects? To do this, I don’t actually need samples from primate stomachs, but I can look for genes that code for these enzymes. So far I have found that most (but not all!) primates do have a functional gene that codes for a chitin-digesting enzyme. (Chitin is what the exoskeletons of insects are made of.) Interestingly, some primates that eat a lot of insects have more than one gene, while some of those primates that don’t eat any insects also have no functional genes!