Primates & Fermented Food

/ / Science

Humans have been fermenting for thousands of years; now, an anthropologist has published evidence that several other primate species also feed on fermented food.

Katherine Amato, at Northwestern University, compiled evidence from 151 biologists who study the feeding habits of 40 primate species from Asia, Africa and the Americas. Fifteen of those species consume fruit in the late stages of fermentation, and thatermented fruit makes up 3% of their diet. Though the scale is small, the evolutionary roots are interesting. 

“Of the 44 types of fruit eaten in an advanced state of fermentation, 16 had tough husks that the animals could not easily open unless they were first fermented, and 25 contained digestion-impeding or toxic chemicals like tannins and alkaloids that fermentation tends to destroy,” reads an article in The Economist on the research. 

It continues: “Several of the fermented-fruit-eating primates alive today split off from the line that leads to people well over 10m years ago. Presumably, they have evolved their own genetic arrangements for dealing with fermentation products and the microbes that produce them. Nevertheless, Dr. Amato’s work suggests that human beings’ love of the fermented does, indeed, have deep evolutionary roots.”

Read more (The Economist)