Eating is a risky affair. All animals have to offset risks of feeding such as exposure to plant toxins, increased vulnerability to predation, or conspecific aggression with a food's energetic and nutritional return. What, when, and where an individual eats can impact fitness and, ultimately, species-level adaptations. Here, we explore the variables that influence primate feeding preference: food availability, chemical defense, and nutrient content. We present information demonstrating that consumers manipulate nutrient and energy intake, indicating that what may be a less-than-optimal food for one state of an animal's phenotype may not be for another. This evidence suggests that factors previously assumed to be constraints in Optimal Foraging Theory, Functional Response, and—recently—Fallback Food feeding models would be better categorized as variables. We conclude that “fallback” is not an intrinsic state of the food or the consumer and that this conclusion complicates the application of this concept to morphological features in the fossil record.


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