- Central American monkeys eat fermented fruit that contains ethanol
- Research has just shown that they consume this alcohol to store energy
- The question as to whether human alcoholism finds its source in this primate eating habit remains open…
If we sometimes appreciate alcohol without any moderation, it may be because our distant ancestors were looking for the most ripe fruit to meet their calorie needs! For several years, University of Berkeley biologist Robert Dudley had a hunch: In a book published in 2014, he suggested that our fondness for alcohol came directly from monkeys’ attraction to scent. Crave fermented fruits. A new study by primatologist Christina Campbell from the University of California, Berkeley, lends credence to this thesis. she was Published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.
The “drunk monkey” hypothesis
Interested in the alleged “drunken monkey” hypothesis, Christina Campbell and her team collected the fruit eaten by spider monkeys on the island of Barro Colorado in Panama. They discovered two things: on the other hand, the alcohol concentration in this fruit residue was between 1% and 2% in volume under the influence of natural fermentation and that urine collected from free-living monkeys contained secondary alcohol metabolites. This means that primates not only eat this fruit for its taste but use the alcohol it contains to store energy.
“For the first time, we were able to show beyond a reasonable doubt that wild primates, without human intervention, consume the ethanol contained in the fruit!exclaims Victoria Campbell, acknowledging in fact that there is an iota of truth in the ‘drunken monkey’ hypothesis and thatHumans’ tendency to consume alcohol stems from the deep affinity of fruit-eating primates for the ethanol in this food“.
Do monkeys feel the intoxicating effects of alcohol?
This is already suggested by Robert Dudley’s book, which showed that primates can eat fruits with an alcohol content of up to 7%. But in 2014, nothing made it possible to say, as is possible today, whether monkeys consumed this fruit solely for its taste or if they digested alcohol for their energy needs.
The crucial question remains: Do spider monkeys on Barro Island Colorado also seek the behavioral effects of this alcohol consumption, feel its intoxicating effects? Robert Dudley said he doubted it. According to research by Christina Campbell, monkeys ingest alcohol concentrations of no more than half of those found in the so-called “low alcohol” “human” drinks…so the “sugar mark” will remain the number one picture!
However, the same fruits they consume today have been used by the people of the region for thousands of years to make “hookah”, an alcoholic drink! So, alcohol addiction is a “Darwinian” phenomenon? A California primatologist settles this debate with an “answer from Norman”:Our human ancestors may have preferred ethanol-laden fruits because they contain more calories… But the psychological and hedonistic effects of this alcohol may have also led to their increased consumption…“