Alcohol tolerance "may have helped human ancestors survive"

Alcohol tolerance

PanARMENIAN.Net - The evolution of a capacity to metabolise alcohol may have saved humanity’s prehistoric ape ancestors from extinction, scientists claim, according to The Independent.

A common ancestor of humans and the other great apes living some 10 million years ago evolved to carry a protein that makes that process more efficient.

These primates eventually gave rise not only to humans but also to gorillas, chimps and bonobos, which can all break down ethanol, the chemical compound in alcohol.

Humans’ common ancestor with chimpanzees lived between 6 and 8 million years ago. Apes and monkeys shared a common ancestor some 25 million years ago.

In a new book, called Alcohol And Humans: A Long And Social Affair, professors Dr Kim Hockings and Dr Robin Dunbar argue that this ability helped them in a battle for survival against rival monkey species.

It let them eat overripe, fermented fruits that had fallen onto the ground, which those rival populations could not.

Monkeys still cannot tolerate the ethanol in overripe fruits, and the authors say this new source of calories “might have brought apes back from the brink” of extinction.

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