Alcohol tolerance might have saved our ancestors from EXTINCTION, scientists claim

The Sun Technology 1 day ago

OUR ancestors’ ability to process alcohol may have saved them from extinction, experts have claimed.

Evolving to better handle booze could have given our ape-like forebears the edge over rival species in ancient times.

Our ancient ape ancestors evolved to better process overripe fruit

Around ten million years ago, our ape ancestors in Africa were eating fallen fruits from the forest floor.

But many of these fruits would have begun to ferment and become alcoholic.

Ape populations are believed to have dwindled, partly thanks to fierce competition for food.

Monkey rivals had a major advantage: they could eat unripe fruit. Apes (like modern humans) struggled to digest these unripe fruits.

Monkeys tend to be better at processing under-ripe fruit

According to the book, at least one line of apes were saved thanks to evolution.

A genetic adaptation allowed them to process alcohol, which meant they could eat overripe fruits.

Monkeys can’t tolerate the ethanol in overripe fruits, researchers say, which may have helped bring apes “back from the brink”.

These are the claims inside new book ‘Alcohol and Humans: A Long and Social Affair’, penned by top scientists.

“Even today we see great apes eating fermented fruit and even drinking palm wine produced by humans,” said Dr Kim Hockings, of the University of Exeter.

“It’s hard to be certain of why they do this, and this reflects the complex history of our own relationship with alcohol.

“One interesting point is that the alcohol level in fallen fruit is usually about 1-4% – something like weak beer.

“Yet much of the alcohol consumed by humans today is far stronger than this.

“As with other substances like salt and sugar, the problem may not be the substance itself but the concentrations we now have access to.”

Dr Hockings co-authored the book with Robin Dunbar, Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Oxford.

The pair hope to test the ethanol levels in wild fruits to learn more about how species process alcohol.

The book is available to purchase from the Oxford University Press here.

In other news, experts have warned that the price of a pint could soar to £10 thanks to climate change.

A catastrophic “beer tsunami” killed eight people at a London brewery in the 19th century.

And boffins have brewed 5,000-year-old “Biblical beer” enjoyed by Pharaohs – by scraping ingredients from ancient pots.

What do you make of these boozy claims? Let us know in the comments!

Tags: Science

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