Chimpanzees have already shown a great resembles to human and a huge capacity for leaning in previous studies. We knew that they can understand language and learn how to cook, but recent research has now found that they also enjoy an activity many people frequent on Friday and Saturday nights – drinking.
The chimpanzees living in the Bossou area of Guinea live the life that every human alcoholic dreams of – they start drinking early in the morning (around 7 a.m.) and the activity is usually a sociable one. Oh, and their alcohol is free of charge. The chimps get their daily buzz by drinking the fermented sap of palm trees.
The study, published in the Royal Society Open Science, on Wednesday (June 10, 2015), took place between the years of 1995 and 2012 (that’s 17 years), and documented how humans indirectly help African chimps get drunk and just how much the chimps enjoy it.
The local communities in the area harvest the sugary sap of palm trees because it ferments into alcohol in just a few hours. They cut into the tree and attach a container that they cover with leaves in order to keep the bugs away while they wait for it to fill with sweet sap.
The researchers found that there are 51 instances when chimps have raided such containers. They start by chewing on the leaves that cover the containers in order to turn them into a type of absorbent sponge. They then dipped the so called sponges into the sap and drank. Some of them drank so much that they showed “visible signs of inebriation”.
The research team, led by Dr Kimberley Hockings from Oxford Brookes University, measured the alcohol levels of the beverage and filmed the chimps enjoying their drinking sessions. On average, the alcohol levels were 3.1%, however some batches had an alcohol level of 6.9%.
The results showed that both male and female chimps enjoy alcohol, some drank moderately while others went overboard and drank about 85 milliners of alcohol, and one male chimp named Foaf turned out to be the town drunk by showing up in 14 of the 51 recorded sessions.
Some of them fell asleep soon after drinking, while others became restless. One chimp in particular was very agitated, with the researchers informing that “While other chimpanzees were making and settling into their night nests, he spent an additional hour moving from tree to tree in an agitated manner. Again pure speculation, but it’s certainly something we would like to collect further data on in the future”.
The study was not conducted just for fun however. The team who worked on the project explained that it offered valuable inside into the theory of evolution. It is believed that natural selection favored primates with a love for alcohol as it stimulated their appetite and helped them search for fruit in order to boost caloric intake.
Not only that, but Matthew Carrigan from Santa Fe College recently conducted another study and found that African chimps and humans share a gene that allows both species to consume ethanol.
Image Source: i.guim.co.uk