Evolutionary Origins of Human Alcoholism in Primate Frugivory

  • Dudley R
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Abstract

Evolutionary origins of alcohol consumption have rarely been considered in studies of ethanol addiction. However, the occurrence of ethanol in ripe and decaying fruit and the substantial heritability of alcoholism in humans suggest an important historical association between primate frugivory and alcohol consumption. Olfactory localization of ripe fruit via volatilized alcohols, the use of ethanol as an appetitive stimulant, and the consumption of fruits with substantial ethanol content potentially characterize all frugivorous primates, including hominoids and the lineage leading to modern humans. Patterns of alcohol use by humans in contemporary environments may thus reflect a maladaptive co-option of ancestral nutritional strategies. Although diverse factors contribute to the expression of alcoholism as a clinical syndrome, historical selection for the consumption of ethanol in the course of frugivory can be viewed as a subtle yet pervasive evolutionary influence on modern humans.

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Authors

  • Robert Dudley

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