Japanese Monkeys Are Seasoning Their Food With Saltwater
Now they just need to find out about pepper.
Humans certainly aren’t the only salt-loving species—just observe a horse or rabbit go after a salt lick. But we are the only group that consciously adds salt to our food. Or so we thought. According to How Stuff Works, one group of Japanese monkeys have learned to season their food.
In the 1950s, researchers studying a population of macaques on Japan’s Koshima Island gave monkeys sweet potatoes in an effort to get them into the open and observe their behavior. Before eating the potatoes, the monkeys would brush off any dirt. One day, a female named Imo invented a better cleaning method—she washer her potato in a freshwater stream. Imo’s clan members picked up on her behavior and took it a step further: In 1965, researchers noted that Imo’s disciples had started washing and dipping their potatoes in salt water instead of fresh. They would wash the potatoes, then dip them back into the salt water between bites, suggesting that they liked the water’s salty flavor.
The Koshima study isn’t the only piece of evidence that suggests the snow monkeys could evolve into the world’s next top chefs. More recently, a group of macaques from Japan’s Kii peninsula were found to have a mutated gene that dulled their perception of bitter flavors. According to Discover, the monkeys with the mutation are less picky about what they eat. They’ll try anything from a bitter wild fruit called tachibana to human crops like cabbage and radishes, which their non-mutated brethren won’t touch. It’s a problem for local farmers (the bitter-loving monkeys keep stealing produce) but it’s an evolutionary boon for the macaques with the DNA aberration. The world is now their Las Vegas buffet.