Sunday, 13 April 2014

Drunken Monkeys: Does Alcoholism Have an Evolutionary Basis?

By Wynne Parry, Live Science Contributor | April 11, 2014 04:20pm ET

As the child of an alcoholic father, Robert Dudley long wondered what caused the destructive allure of alcohol. Then while working in the Panamanian forest as a biologist, Dudley saw monkeys eating ripe fruit, which likely contained small amounts of the stuff, and an answer occurred to him: Maybe alcoholism is an evolutionary hangover.

Had fruit-eating animals, including human ancestors, gained an evolutionary advantage by learning to associate the smell and taste of alcohol with ripe fruit? Dudley wondered. He named this concept the drunken monkey hypothesis. "I thought it was too simple an idea not to have been thought of previously," he told Live Science. But he found no record of it.

Now, about 15 years after conceiving the idea, Dudley, who studies the physiology and biomechanics of flight at the University of California, Berkeley, has published a book, "The Drunken Monkey: Why We Drink and Abuse Alcohol" (University of California Press, 2014) that delves into the evolution of humans' and other animals' attraction to fruit, and as a result, alcohol.

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