My characters get trapped in a universe where Apes, specifically chimpanzees, rule supreme and humans are just wild animals. Like most wild animals, humans are often taken from jungles and rain forests and put in zoos. My main characters are all captured by hunters and taken to a zoo in a metropolitan area. They are kept in an enclosure, where they are fed about twice a day. The diet humans are given at the zoo is

  • 3 Mangoes

  • 500 Termites

  • 6 Celery sticks

  • Unlimited amount of water

The humans in that universe are less picky and more resilient when it comes to eating, but the humans from this universe aren’t like the ones there. My question is, how long could the humans survive on this diet?

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    $\begingroup$ Outside of the lack of essential minerals, fats, protein and amino acids, the main reason the humans will die is simple lack of caloric intake. A normal person needs about 2000 calories/day to survive and function normally. Without calculating the total caloric intake it is hard to estimate just how long a human could survive before starving to death (and they may die much sooner due to the lack of essential nutrients before that). $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Jun 21 '18 at 3:25
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    $\begingroup$ You should edit your question to link to your other question. Also why dont you rephrase it as "what is the minimum diet humans can have with mangoes,celery, and termites" . Include too "is there a nutritional void in my supplies? If so, what is the most viable nutrition given x environment." If youd like, i can make heavy revisions to this post. Ive seen your other question and I think i know what you are attempting to ask. $\endgroup$ – Crettig Jun 21 '18 at 5:01
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    $\begingroup$ @SydneySleeper That's because too often they get story-based wrong. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jun 21 '18 at 5:17
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    $\begingroup$ if this is what they're giving their caged animals, it's a wonder there ARE any caged animals at all $\endgroup$ – Valerio Pastore Jun 21 '18 at 6:15
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    $\begingroup$ -1 for lack of any own research. Calculating calories is trivial. Termites was discussed on this very site, mango and celery is trivial. Calculating protein and fat intake doesn't take much longer. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jun 21 '18 at 7:27

Your diet provides humans with enough calories and vitamins and minerals from 6 per day mangos @ 210 calories per mango, depending on their body weight and activity, to survive for many years. But you are only providing ~1 gram of protein per day from their ration of termites, ~ 8 grams from the mangos, and 1/2 gram from the celery. The human body needs 0.8 grams of protein per kg of mass every day. If it doesn't come from the diet, it comes from the body.

So on average, an adult male doing nothing will consume 43 g of body mass every day. The typical male has 30 kg of muscle and 10 kg of fat. Every hundred days they'll lose 3.3 kg or 10 kg per year. Assuming a healthy adult male, they'll survive at most < 4 years. More likely 2-3 1/2 years. This is assuming they are doing nothing but eat and sleep to conserve energy.

If they are active, then they'll burn their bodies faster and die sooner. And, it assumes that they don't have any latent diseases like a dormant cold or flu. Once the body weakens it won't be able to fight infections or diseases.

Living in alien zoos they are likely to be in contact with many viruses and bacteria they've never encountered so their immune systems will be in overdrive, which will also shorten their life expectancy under these conditions.

I think on this diet though, the most likely cause of death will be either suicide or cannibalism. But, it is hard to guess how long either of those will take to rear their heads.

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    $\begingroup$ I feel that the lack of fat in that diet can also be a problem. I don't know whether there is consensus among the nutritionists, what exactly the fat is for, but I vaguely remember it being necessary for proper production of hormones and antibodies. Just give them some nuts at least. $\endgroup$ – Cumehtar Jun 14 '19 at 19:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Cumehtar It's called protein poisoning (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protein_poisoning), and, as far as I remember, has to do with certain fat acids not being released into the body if the body doesn't burn any fat for energy. That later information is not found in the wikipedia article I linked, it must be found somewhere in an article about some of the fat acids involved (if my memory serves correctly). $\endgroup$ – cmaster - reinstate monica Jun 14 '19 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ @cmaster nice, so it's a contest of whether this or kwashiorkor gets those humans first. Ouch... $\endgroup$ – Cumehtar Jun 14 '19 at 20:29

Not very long.

Termite workers weigh in at 0.9 milligrams. 500 termites is 450 milligrams (less than half a gram). For perspective, 1 gram of water is 1 cubic centimeter. To equal the meat in a McDonalds' quarter pounder, you would need at least 113398.1 milligrams, or 126,000 termites (+/- a negligible percentage).


Not a good diet at all. There are a few issues here I see. First is your number of termites is a few orders of magnitude too small to be a significant source of anything. If you increase it as pojo-huy suggests, it would round your diet out a bit, but that still doesn't make it a great answer. This is because zoos don't just feed their animals what people eat, they try to make specialized feeds with 3 general goals in mind:

  • Keep their animals healthy.
  • Maximize their limited budget.
  • Simplify care through minimal prep work.

To get an ideal solution that answers all 3 of these concerns, all you need are potatoes & eggs. Potatoes have nearly all of the nutrients we need for survival and they have one of the best caloric returns for the amount of farmland and labor out of any known plant. Eggs are also really easy to cultivate, and they contain the important vitamine D & A that potatoes are lacking in.

Just eating potatoes and eggs will keep you alive and healthy for a pretty long time. But, there is a catch. Neither are a good source of calcium... or are they? Eggshells are the basis for most calcium supplements. So to prevent calcium deficiency, all you need to do is make the humans eat the shells and you have a complete diet.

To prepare a full day's feed for a human, all you need is 5-6 medium potatoes and 5-6 eggs That will give you the minimum calories and nutrients you need to maintain good health in your humans fulfilling the first goal of animal feeds. The second goal is meet by the fact that potatoes and eggs are dirt cheap. You can feed a human off of about $1.50/day. The 3rd goal is met because you only need 2 ingredients so your zookeepers could make it in house without any special culinary skills.

As a final note, if you can't get your humans to eat the food with the eggshells in it, adding ~1/2 a cup of chia or poppy seeds could give them the calcium they need as well.


The body can survive roughly ~3 weeks without food some longer: https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/how-long-can-you-live-without-food#individual-time-period

But 3 days without water, and 3 min without oxygen. (well likely 4 but reads better is all 3s).

So given this list of food provided twice a day, a good while, but the lack of essential nutrients would probably catch up with them eventually. May be a few months. I would worry most about lack of salts. Given this is meant to be a zoo, I would expect them to offer a slightly more balanced diet to their charges.

  • $\begingroup$ I'll always challenge that 3 weeks figure. Some religious people fasten completely for 40 days, and they routinely survive. As long as you keep ingesting enough salt (replace what you sweat out, otherwise your body looses its ability to retain the water you drink, leading to dehydration) and you have enough fat and protein in your body, you can starve for quite a long time. $\endgroup$ – cmaster - reinstate monica Jun 14 '19 at 20:22

It is well documented that Sidartha from the Hindu religion survived on nothing more than one grain of rice per day which is significantly less than what you mention.

Mangos provide:

  1. Sugar
  2. Carbohydrates
  3. Fiber
  4. Vitamin C
  5. Potassium
  6. Magnesium

Termites provide:

  1. Protein
  2. Complex B Vitamins (they're a life form)

The combination of those two only, is absolutely enough to sustain life. However, celery actually burns more calories to chew and digest than it yields. So the celery would actually be a delicacy in this universe for these people considering it has no real purpose or any nutritional value.

The question actually depends entirely on your rate of metablism. If you simply do not do anything, sit still and close your eyes for your entire life - your metabolic rate will be significantly decreased Simiar to the life of a sloth.

Now, you don't mention how active these humans will be, so a very critical part of the equation is missing.

In short, if they are simply sitting in a cage eating that meal, they could absolutely survive.

However, if they are active and maintain high metablism greater than the amount of calories given by your regimine, they will surely die of starvation.

  • $\begingroup$ A delicacy is a particularly desirable or expensive food, not just anything edible that isn't required to survive. Eating grass or dirt has no real purpose or nutritional value, but that doesn't make them delicacies. I see no reason why celery would suddenly become a delicacy in this limited and routine diet. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Hoagie Jun 14 '19 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ "It is well documented ..." in the same documents that assert the Earth was created by by a four-headed horndog, and sits upon turtles. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Jun 14 '19 at 20:56
  • $\begingroup$ As I've said in the comments to another answer - not only is the amount of termites noted by the OP too small to provide necessary proteins, this ration also lacks in fats. Actually, there seem to be no dietary fats here at all - and that's not survivable for a human. $\endgroup$ – Cumehtar Jun 14 '19 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ @NuclearWang Wrong. It's all within a perspective. If this is all the food you have as an option; surely it's a delicacy. Just like how whale fat used to be a delicacy. $\endgroup$ – Jacob Gaiski Jun 21 '19 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ @JacobGaiski I really don't understand what you're getting at. Why do you determine that the celery is the delicacy here, but not the mangoes or termites? Form Wikipedia: A delicacy is usually a rare or expensive food item that is considered highly desirable, sophisticated or peculiarly distinctive. A vegetable that's 95% water which you eat every single day of your life meets none of those criteria. Whale fat is difficult to get, so it at least meets the rarity criterion of being a delicacy - if it was tasteless, easy to get, and eaten every day, it would not be considered as such. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Hoagie Jun 21 '19 at 13:56

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