Newsletter of the Association for the Study of Language In Prehistory

Issue 25 · Summer 1995

Chimpanzees Are Virtual Carnivores!

Evolutionary theory has always had to cope with the dietary differences between humanoids and the great apes -- leaf and banana munching apes but a savagely carnivorous Cave Man type of human. We have known, of course, for a long time that ethnologically we gather as often as we hunt, except the Eskimo and some others. Homo sapiens is omnivorous.

We have also known that chimps do sometimes eat meat. What is new are the recent appraisals of chimp meat-eating. Not only is it much more common than thought but also the notion that chimpanzees have something like a lust for meat is now upon us. Craig Stanford (U / Southern Californa) was reported in the New York Times (June 27, 1995) with these new emphases, including the new observation that sharing meat plays an important part in chimpanzee social interactions. Checking with David Pilbeam, I was reminded that male chimps do have 'large projecting canine teeth'. Those are not for cracking nuts or munching bananas!

Despite King Kong and Godzilla, are there any reports of gorillas or orangutans eating meat, or much meat?

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(c) 1996 Association for the Study of Language In Prehistory