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Sugar-Free Carnivores

April 10, 2012

Each group of carnivores has a different set of genetic mutations that has knocked out its sweet tooth.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Sugar-free carnivores…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

While humans and most other animals crave sweets, many carnivores are sugar-blind. A new study reports that many species in the order Carnivora have accumulated mutations in their sweet taste receptors that destroy their ability to enjoy sugary foods. Biologist Gary Beauchamp of the Monell Chemical Senses Center and his colleagues already knew that all cat species lack sweet taste receptors. Now, DNA analysis reveals that similar mutations in species such as harbor seals and spotted hyenas have also wiped out their taste for sweets.

GARY BEAUCHAMP (Monell Chemical Senses Center):

It was startling to find that this was happening time after time after time independently.

HIRSHON:

But these animals do have well-developed taste receptors for amino acids, the key ingredients of meat. On the other hand, giant pandas, which also belong to the order Carnivora, but subsist almost exclusively on bamboo, have lost their ability to taste amino acids. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

The spotted hyena, like many other carnivores, has lost its sweet tooth. (Marcel Oosterwijk/Wikipedia)