Drunk Monkeys Help Explain Why Humans Love Booze

Medscape Staff

April 05, 2022

Primates of various species tend to seek out ripe, fermented fruit, a habit that is shedding light on the enjoyment and abuse of alcohol by humans, according to researchers from the University of California, Berkeley.

What to know:

  • Frugivorous (fruit-eating) primates that have had no human contact were found to have a deep-rooted affinity for consuming ripened fruit that has fermented and contains ethanol.

  • Studying black-handed spider monkeys in Panama and chimpanzees in Uganda, researchers found they consumed a great deal of fermented fruit and were metabolizing the alcohol.

  • The alcohol concentration in the fermented fruit consumed by the primates was typically 1% to 2% but could go as high as 7%.

  • The urine from free-ranging monkeys was found to contain secondary metabolites of alcohol, indicating that the animals were utilizing the alcohol for energy and that the alcohol was not just passing through their bodies.

  • This appears to support the hypothesis of the "drunken monkey," which links the proclivity of humans to consume alcohol to the same tendency in primates, with whom humans are closely related genetically.

This is a summary of the article, "Monkeys Often Eat Fruit Containing Alcohol, Shedding Light on Our Taste for Booze," published by Science X on March 31, 2022. The full article can be found on phys.org.

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