June 12, 2015: Evolution and Revolution

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For this first installment, I hope you can indulge me a little.  One of the goals is to keep these posts succinct – get you some cool info and send you on your way.  But today’s will be a smidge longer so that I may include a little introduction – after the post. Yes, the introduction comes after and I’m ok with that. Here’s the post – I hope you stick around for the intro!

Post: Told You It Was Gonna Be Juicy

So, by now you know that apes are kinda like humans, and by that I mean humans are kinda like apes.

There’s a fun new thing, published this week by scientists from the Royal Society, indicating that our hankering for happy hour may not have existed if not for a genetic mutation.

The mutation, which occurred about 10 million years ago in the last common ancestors of modern apes and modern humans, increased by 40 the rate that ethanol was metabolized!

In other words, it helped those old apes knock down a few without going all ape—t. This mutation ensured that a prerequisite for initiation into the ‘Fittest’ club – as in ‘Survival Of’ – included a tolerance for a little healthy imbibing of ethanol (aka alcohol, aka booze).

The scientists figured this out during a 17-year study in Bossou Guinea, during which they recorded 51 drinking “events” of which 20 were termed drinking “sessions”; “events” generally included 1 or 2 chimps just ‘taking the edge off’ whereas “sessions” were akin to a full-on party at the palm tree!  The apes embezzled the product from villagers by scrunching up leaves in their mouths to make them into little sponges and then dipping them into containers that villagers had placed on the raffia palm trees to collect sap.

So the next time your friends point out that your beer belly needs its own seat at the bar, you can remind them of the ‘drunken monkey hypothesis’ – yes that’s a thing – which states that natural selection favored primates with an attraction to alcohol – because this meant that ape was a skilled frugivore.  We have to stop to talk about this word – because I love the sound of it – frugivore – it just means someone who eats fruit– who knew??  For the old apes, being caught in the act of frugivory was a good thing, because it proved he could find some calories! And that’s a biggie in terms of surviving the evolutionary cuts.

Proud to be a part of this bloodline.

Introduction – or Lessons in Joy Thieving

Of all the big stories I could’ve selected for the inauguration of this blog – why drunken chimps?  For one, I wanted to start out reminding all of us that earth is full of wonder and joy – that’s the point of all this conservation stuff – we want to keep some of that joyful stuff around…to not, as my teen says, be “thieves of joy.”

But, moreover, highlighting yet another way that chimps parallel human behavior (or humans parallel chimp behavior), helps me to share a little about the goals for this blog and also, a little about my inspiration for it:  Jane Goodall.

My goal is threefold: 1). Help inform and 2). Ensure you see yourself in our natural world, so that 3). You are inclined to preserve, protect and champion it.  In short: don’t be a thief of joy.

Before you run off scared of some kind of ‘liberal’ tree-hugging agenda – this is a good time to remind you that the earth doesn’t care what your political ideology is. Protecting the earth is in your best interest, whoever you are and wherever you live.

That said, everything shared here will be sourced by scientists – there will be no spin, (unless we’re talking about the earth’s rotation and/or revolution).

I will not cite sources that have been funded by corporations or politicians.  Science is science. There’s a whole formula and everything they have to follow before publishing anything in a respected science journal… I think it’s called the “scientific formula.”

If you don’t believe in science, then this blog is not for you.

If, however, you love the fact that there are biologists, chemists, ecologists, physicists and all those other smart people taking care of figuring all this blue and green stuff out for us but you find your eyes glazing over when reading about it – don’t worry!  My goal is to make it accessible.

This brings back to Jane: In 1960, when she embarked on a scientific journey that has since become her life’s work:

she was not scientist – she had never spent one moment in the field –
and she did not have a college degree.

And yet – she is a crusader who pioneered a revolution in the way scientific research is conducted and continues to be a crusader for conservation – not just of the chimps and their habitat, but for the people who live nearby.

Shout out to Lewis Leaky for ingeniously forging Goodall’s path toward informing the scientific community – which, for the most part, laughed her off – that human emotion should not and really cannot, be removed from the equation when conducting scientific research.

The goal of environmental research is to learn how we, as people, are affecting the earth, its process and its inhabitants.

If we remove ourselves from it, we remove our responsibility to it.

Thank you, Jane, for continuing to inspire me and reminding us that you don’t have to be scientist to change the world.

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