Humans Ate Termites Thousands Of Years Ago
When considering the average day in the life of a prehistoric human, you would probably not be surprised to find that our ancestors indulged in some pretty disgusting things, such as eating termites. Of course, ancient humans did not just eat termites regularly; they also ate other insects, like ants. Termites and ants are particularly nutritious, and are especially high in protein. So it seems reasonable to believe that our ancestors consumed ants and termites when a wild animal could not be found. Also, our close primate relatives regularly feast on termites. Thousands of years ago, humans had just as many resources as their primate relatives, so humans almost certainly ate termites and ants alive.
Chimpanzees have been studied for more than fifty years. Dr. Jane Goodall had conducted the bulk of chimpanzee research for years. Goodall noticed chimps will not only seek out termites as food, but chimps will even build tools to make catching termites easier. For example, Dr. Goodall documented instances where chimps would use long sticks in order to poke at termite colonies underground. The chimp would do this poking while secured at an elevated position, similar to fishing, but for termites. After a moment of moving the stick through the termite colony underground, the chimp would then consume the termites still remaining on the stick–think Fun Dip, except with termites and not sugar.
After a group of researchers examined the stomach contents of a chimp, a variety of different insects were found, but all were outnumbered by the staggering amount of termites and ants. It seems that primates choose to eat eusocial insects, and this is because eusocial insects meet the nutritional demands of primate physiology. Much like their human relatives, chimps prefer to eat fruits and other more tasty food items, but when resources are low, both humans and their less advanced primate relatives, will chow down on termites.
What other factors could lead to primates preferring to eat eusocial insects over other types of insects?