Feeds

Which zoo animals like artificial sweeteners: Facts at last

Experts baffled by aspartame-guzzling Swiss pandas

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Almost everybody has, no doubt, at one time or another asked themselves one of the most urgent questions facing the human race today. That is, of course: Just which kinds of Swiss zoo animals like the taste of artificial sweeteners?

Wonder no more, because an international team of scientists has at last carried out a thorough investigation into the matter. In a shock finding, it has turned out that red pandas resident in Switzerland are absolute fools for aspartame, neotame and sucralose. Swiss meerkats and ferrets, however, prefer real sugar: and lions living in the land of cuckoo-clocks don't like sweet things at all.

"This is the essence of molecular science," remarked Joseph G Brand PhD, a biophysicist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. "Asking a behavioral question and getting a molecular answer."

It seems that Brand and his colleague Xia Li enlisted the help of Swiss brainbox Dieter Glaser from Zurich Uni. Glaser carried out taste tests on lions, ferrets, genets, meerkats, mongoose, and red pandas living in Swiss zoos. All these species are of the order Carnivora.

According to the Monell centre:

Lions, like other cats, are obligate carnivores, meaning that they eat almost exclusively meat. Meerkats are mainly insectivores, while red pandas are primarily herbivores that almost exclusively eat bamboo leaves and shoots.

As expected from the previous findings, the lion did not prefer any of the sweet solutions ... Each of the remaining species preferred at least some of the natural sugars ... Because only primates were believed to be able to taste aspartame, the researchers predicted that none of the Carnivore species tested would show a preference for the artificial sweeteners.

This indeed was the case for five of the species. However, the sixth species – the red panda – drank large amounts of the artificial sweeteners aspartame, neotame, and sucralose.

"The red panda is able to taste artificial sweeteners," said a baffled Dr Li. "What we don't know is why this particular animal has this unusual ability. Perhaps the red panda's unique sweet receptor evolved to allow this animal to detect some compound in its natural food that has a similar structure to these sweeteners."

That's just the way it is in science, of course. You answer one tricky question - ie, which animals like artificial sweeteners - and find that now you have another conundrum to solve: why do pandas like them? Does it have anything to do with living in Switzerland, the nation with the highest per-capita consumption of chocolate in the world? (22.36 pounds of choccy per Swiss resident per year, apparently).

Needless to say, the allied scientists plan more detailed research. They say that painstaking work such as this "could eventually lead to the development of more acceptable sugar substitutes, potentially benefiting diabetics and other individuals on sugar-restricted diets." ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
ANU boffins demo 'tractor beam' in water
The current state of the art, apparently
China to test recoverable moon orbiter
I'll have some rocks and a moon cheese pizza please, home delivery
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.