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Published on Apr 17, 2014
Termites and ants are not something you're likely to pour into a cereal bowl for breakfast or munch with toast and tea, but your ancient ancestors almost certainly enjoyed eating them—alive! In fact, new research on the insect-eating behavior of chimpanzees reveals termites and ants are a highly nutritious food that is easily accessible to chimps in the bush. Faced with the same conditions millions of years earlier, researchers say, our hominid ancestors may have gobbled down insects to ease the cravings of an empty stomach.
As a Ph.D. student, Robert O'Malley spent months following a chimpanzee troop in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, recording the insects that they ate and collecting samples to be analyzed at the National Zoo's Nutrition Laboratory, a part of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI). His findings further our understanding of chimpanzee diets and also give us strong insights into the diet of early hominids.