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Spider monkeys regularly eat fruit containing ALCOHOL, study finds – shedding light on why we have a taste for booze


Monkeys actively seek out fruit that has become ripe enough for the sugars to have fermented, producing about two percent alcohol, new study discovered.

Biologists from UC Berkeley collected fruit that had been eaten and discarded by black-handed spider monkeys in Panama, as well as taking urine samples.

They discovered that the fruit typically had an alcohol concentration of between one and two percent by volume, created as a byproduct of natural fermentation.

Robert Dudley, a UC Berkeley biologist, has been studying humans’ love of alcohol for the past 25 years, and in 2014 wrote a book suggesting this started in our ape and monkey ancestors, who discovered that the scent of alcohol led them to ripe fruit.


The new study supports the ‘drunken monkey’ hypothesis, and increases our understanding of how the love of alcohol first formed in human brains.

The ground work, to find proof of drunk monkeys, was led by primatologist Christina Campbell of California State University, Northridge (CSUN), and her graduate student Victoria Weaver, who collected fruit eaten and discarded by the monkeys.

Black-handed spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi), living ‘free range’ in Panama, were the focus of the research.

They found that the alcohol concentration in the fruit was between 1% and 2%, a by-product of natural fermentation by yeasts that eat sugar in ripening fruit.


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