Science Questions

Are humans the only picky eaters?

Sat, 20th Oct 2012

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Mark Wilson asked:

Naked Scientists,


There are people in the world who do not like the taste of seafood. Others don't like sweets. Still others avoid bitter or sour foods. We all have different tastes. I am curious however about the rest of the animals on planet Earth. Are there panda bears who don't like bamboo? Are there sharks who avoid seafood? Do some lions dislike gazelle meat? Or are humans the only picky eaters?


Mark Wilson

San Diego, California, U.S.A.


Ginny -   Well, there are animals who are very fussy.  For example, pandas only live off bamboo, so they’ll only eat that one thing, but I think what he was really asking is whether there are animals like humans where certain individuals do and don’t like particular foods.  And when I looked into this, I found many more reports of this in pet animals than in wild animals.  So there are lots of people out there who report cats who will only eat one brand of cat food and dogs who leave certain bits of their kibble.  So, I was thinking it may be that we notice it more in pets than in wild animals because we spend more time with them or it may be something that only happens when food is plentiful.  So, you can imagine that even a child who hates broccoli, if it was the only thing available for them to eat, they'd probably eat it.  So it could be that picky eaters only really exist when there's plenty of food around.


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Come interview my cat !....she'll confirm that humans are not the only fussy eaters ! neilep, Wed, 19th Sep 2012

Yep, and my tortoises can be very fussy, as can Woody the Wood Pigeon. Throw out the wrong bread for him and he wont eat it. Don_1, Wed, 26th Sep 2012

I've noticed that the neighborhood deer have all the wild food they can eat.  But, prefer to come into my yard and eat from my garden and orchard.  I've seen them standing on 2 feet to pick apples off of the trees.

I'm not sure if they would prefer to go hungry if they don't get a meal they like, but perhaps part of nature's adaptation is to taste different types of foods, and to to seek out what appears to be the most savoury and fulfilling.  CliffordK, Wed, 26th Sep 2012

Don and I get a pigeon...Clifford gets deer !!

Don and  I have a garden ...Clifford has an orchard !!
neilep, Wed, 26th Sep 2012

Apples evolved to taste good before people were about to be fussy.

I read somewhere that earthworms like chocolate but don't like garlic.
At some level most animals are fussy- they don't eat things which taste nasty. That's because the nasty tsate is often a warning of toxicity.
Bored chemist, Wed, 26th Sep 2012

I have a yard, a garden, and an orchard.

I think the Americans and British use the words a bit differently.

Garden = (usually considered a vegetable garden, unless modified with other words like "rock", or "flower").  Where I plant my tomatoes (which the dear like), corn (which the deer don't care about), beans (again a delicacy for the deer).

Orchard = where the fruit trees grow.  Deer love apples, pears, plums.  And, I think they even prune the low leaves.  The seem to ignore the figs.

Yard = Where the grass grows.  Deer don't seem to eat rhododendrons, but they will occasionally sample the rhubarb, and seemed to like the rhubarb flowers.  Fortunately they like the rhubarb leaves better than the stalks.  CliffordK, Wed, 26th Sep 2012

To quote your good self, "Le sigh".

Yard = Three feet, I only have two, one on each leg.

Garden = Do the brambles growing out back of the garage count?

Orchard = In London??? Apples, pears, plums, figs, prunes (Prune tree? I'm sorry, I'll read that again).

Deer in the garden???? Everything's bloody dear in the garden here. Don_1, Thu, 27th Sep 2012

neilep, Thu, 27th Sep 2012

I heard that mice/rats are picky eaters - when presented with a novel food, they will just nibble it.
If it has no ill effects after a day, they will eat large quantities of it.
If the first time it is dosed with something that makes them feel ill, they will avoid that food permanently.
Provided it doesn't make them sick, they will eat almost anything.

I heard that human babies are more likely to eat foods that their mothers ate during pregnancy.
Some humans will avoid some foods after a bout of food poisoning. evan_au, Thu, 27th Sep 2012

I think that shows mice/rats are NOT picky eaters at all. You basically said if they learned its not bad for them, they'll eat anything. satsujin, Thu, 4th Oct 2012

A number of animals will "sample" foods.  Then eat what they like best.

I've always wondered why cows will choose to eat hay out of the barn when they have a field full of green grass. CliffordK, Thu, 4th Oct 2012

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