Lemur Water Choices Project

The human emotion of disgust can motivate us to avoid things that give off cues of contamination, helping us avoid parasites. Is this a phylogenetically ancient trait seen in other primates? As an undergraduate, I was a research assistant to Caroline Amoroso for her Ph.D. research in Dr. Charlie Nunn's lab. We gave lemurs at the Duke Lemur Center the choice between clean water and seemingly contaminated (although actually sterile) water. The lemurs had a clear preference for the clean water. For my senior honors thesis, I modified the experiment to see whether the lemurs were using sight or smell to identify potential contamination. I found some evidence for olfaction being important in this context.


Caroline Amoroso
Charlie Nunn
Duke Lemur Center