Humans’ closest living relatives may have a drinking habit: Scientists spied intoxicated wild chimps soaking up palm wine with leaves and squeezing it into their mouths.
Alcohol consumption is seen across nearly all modern human cultures that have access to fermentable materials. This prevalence led scientists to suggest what is known as the “Drunken Monkey Hypothesis” — that alcohol consumption might have provided a benefit of some kind to the ancestors of humanity, and perhaps also to the ancestors of chimpanzees, humanity’s closest living relatives.
The researchers saw 51 instances in which 13 chimps used leaf sponges to drink fermenting sap. “I was fascinated by this behavior,” study lead author Kimberley Hockings, a behavioral ecologist at Oxford Brookes University in England, told Live Science.”To harvest the palm wine, chimpanzees at Bossou use a leafy tool as a spongy drinking vessel.”
The sap averaged about 3.1 to 6.9 percent alcohol, or 6.2 to 13.8 proof. For comparison, beer averages between 3 and 6 percent alcohol, and wine can contain 7 to 14 percent alcohol, with dessert wine having nearly 19 percent alcohol content, according to the University of Notre Dame. The chimps often drank the booze in large quantities — about a liter (34 ounces, or about three average-size beers) of fermented sap on average. Males accounted for 34 of the 51 instances of drinking — one adult male in particular accounted for 14 of the 51 instances.
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