Closest Human Relative Capable of Cooking

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Cooking Primates

A study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggests that chimpanzees have the mental ability to cook food if given an opportunity. Researchers from the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpoung Chimpanzee Sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo gave wild born chimpanzees an opportunity to prepare food using a cooking device.

It was found that the chimps eagerly waited for a minute to opt between cooked sweet potato and raw sweet potato. When given a choice between cooked potato and raw potato, the former was chosen 90 percent of the time. Their liking for cooked food was more visible when they preferred to carry the raw vegetable to the oven 60 percent of the time. The chimps even chose to hoard potatoes, setting aside around 28 slices when they realized that they would be presented with the option of cooking the same at a later stage.

Researchers suggested that the transition to cooked food is an important milestone in the evolution of humans as it allowed our ancestors to expand their dietary habits and extract more calories thus reducing the amount of time required for foraging and chewing. Cooking food has its own advantage as it is softer to eat and easier to digest. Scientists even remarked that the motivation to cook food might have emerged after a forest fire allowed humans to taste the food that was burnt. This might have been the motivation for humans to harness fire in the first place.

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