Eating bugs may have made human ancestors smarter
A new study has found that human ancestors’ searching for and eating insects may have played an important part in the evolution of the brain and cognitive abilities.
Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis conducted an observational study on capuchin monkeys in Costa Rica over the course of five years. The monkeys were found to eat well-hidden insects year-round. But their foraging patterns changed throughout the seasons as different types of foods—such as ripe fruit—became more or less abundant. The researchers said that the monkeys’ seasonal foraging pattern suggests that the insects are an important fallback food.
Experts said that the study’s findings, published in the Journal of Human Evolution, are significant in that fallback foods seemed to have influenced brain evolution in primates for which it included insects. They also added that primates who extract foods seasonally have greater “sensorimotor intelligence,” which includes cognition related to handling tools and other objects.
The researchers related their findings to the foraging patterns of early humans, who are believed to have used tools to extract foods like termites and other embedded insects on a seasonal basis. They concluded that the survival needs of human ancestors may have played a role in evolution similar to that of primates.