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Drunk Monkeys – Further Proof of Evolution?

Credit: http://ladles4.rssing.com/chan-3714205/latest.php

Chimpanzees in West Africa like to drink about as much as humans do. While it’s not certain why the chimps drink, it is an interesting phenomenon.

Palm alcohol is made from the fermented sap of the raffia pine, grown in areas of West Africa. When villagers tap the trees and set up buckets, similar to the early stages of making maple syrup, the chimps take notice. Once humans are not in the area, the chimps return to drink the sap.

You Won’t See A Chimp At The Liquor Store

Like some Caribbean primates who steal tourists’ leftover bottles and drink what’s left, the chimps are drinking the sap being tapped from the palms. The sap has an alcohol level of about 3%, equivalent to a light beer. But, left for a few days the sugars in the sap will ferment raising the alcohol level to about 7%. Taking into account the alcoholic makeup of the sap and the size of chimps, they drink the equivalent of a bottle of wine.

Chimps Use What’s Available

As seen previously, chimps have characteristics similar to humans, for example: the ability to use tools. Chimps use leaves to scoop sap from the buckets or use the spongy leaves villagers cover the buckets with (how’s that for irony?) and then squeeze the palm sap into their mouths.

The chimps do not get drunk in the human sense, but do have noticeable behavioral differences after drinking: they either take a snooze or they get slightly agitated and energetic.

The Drunk Monkey Hypothesis

Scientists have long believed that a long ago common ancestor of chimps and humans had the ability to metabolize ethanol and an attraction to it. The hypothesis posits that the reason for this is that primates would find, through the distinct scent, rotting fruit and eat it – gaining calories they might otherwise skip, thus helping with their survival during times when food was scarce. This new development supports the hypothesis.

This is the second recent discovery regarding chimps exhibiting humanlike behavior. The other study finds that chimps prefer cooked sweet potatoes to raw ones. Who knows, we may see chimps opening a series of sweet potato fries and light beer snack bars in our lifetime.

For a look at chimps stealing some sips, watch the short video from Newsy below.

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