Even apes prefer their meals cooked

May 29th, 2008 - 2:07 pm ICT by admin  

London, May 29 (ANI): Scientists have shown that our ancestors had a natural liking for cooked meals, by finding that chimps, bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans all prefer cooked food to raw forms of meat, sweet potatoes and carrots.

Lead author Richard Wrangham, an anthropologist at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, said that the findings indicate that our ancestors had an intrinsic preference for cooked meals, and most likely started cooking as soon as they wielded fire.

“It would not be long before bits of food would get accidentally cooked and if they liked it they would do it again, New Scientist quoted him, as saying.

Wrangham added that he is using the finding that apes liked cooked food to support his theory that cooking was key in human evolution.

According to him, since cooked food is easier to digest, eating it helped boost anatomical changes in Homo erectus around 1.8 million years ago, including bigger brains, smaller guts and weaker teeth.

However, other anthropologists say data supporting the claim is inadequate.

Wrangham, however, argues that darkened patches of dirt near fossil bones are evidence that pre-humans exploited fire more than 1.6 million years ago.

To find out whether prehistoric hominids might have rapidly used fire to cook their food because it improved taste or texture, Wrangham and colleague Victoria Wobber, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, tested whether several species of great apes chose cooked foods over raw items.

“We wanted to see if we could regard the ancestors of humans, the australopithecine ancestors, as pre-adapted to enjoy cooked food,” he said.

Results showed that when given carrots and sweet potatoes, either raw or cooked, chimps showed preferences for the cooked food.

Wrangham said that the fact that chimps had tasted cooked food before, may have influenced the outcome, as well as the novelty of cooked food could also have affected the results.

Another experiment with captive chimps, bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans also found the apes had a likeness for cooked meats, despite the fact that they had probably never tasted cooked meat before.

Experiments to find out why apes liked cooked foods were inconclusive.

Explaining this, Wrangham said that if apes take to cooked foods quickly, then our ancestors probably did too.

“I can’t imagine that it would have taken more than a generation for these apes to discover that their food tasted better when it was warmed,” he said.

However, Henry Bunn, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, US, said that Wrangham’s early cooking theory is based on too little physical proof.

“Chimps are not australopithecines or early Homo, and their food preferences don’t constitute evidence of what happened,” Bunn said. (ANI)

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