Bugs as food? They may have played a role in our evolution

| | February 16, 2018
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Editor’s note: Darcy Shapiro is an evolutionary anthropologist at Rutgers University

Did you know that what your ancestors ate affects your genes today?

[Researcher Mareike Janiak] wanted to know how very small insect-eating primates like the tarsier are able to waste so much of their stomach space on material that provides no nutrition.

Insects and other arthropods have hard exoskeletons (outer shells) made of a material called chitin. For a long time, researchers thought that mammals – even ones that ate a lot of bugs – were unable to produce the enzyme, called chitinase, that breaks it down.

[S]he used published genomes for some of the primates to look for copies of a gene challed CHIA, which codes for acidic mammalian chitinase – the stomach enzyme that breaks down chitin.

If eating insects was actually an important part of our evolutionary history as a species, this might explain why we still have a functional copy of the CHIA gene. The unsolved mystery here is whether that gene still causes the production of chitinase in the human stomach

The expression of the CHIA gene could be mediated by whether or not a person/population has a history of eating insects.

Understanding the importance of this resource to our own evolution might open the door to greater acceptance of insects as food – call them part of the original paleo diet.

Read full, original post: The bugs your primate ancestors loved to eat found a way into your genes

Outbreak Daily Digest

podcasts GLP Podcasts More...
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped

video Videos More...
stat hospitalai ink st x mod x

Meet STACI: STAT’s fascinating interactive guide to AI in healthcare

The Covid-19 pandemic underscores the importance of the technology in medicine: In the last few months, hospitals have used AI ...

bees and pollinators Bees & Pollinators More...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...

infographics Infographics More...
breastfeeding bed x facebook x

Infographic: We know breastfeeding helps children. Now we know it helps mothers too

When a woman becomes pregnant, her risk of type 2 diabetes increases for the rest of her life, perhaps because ...

biotechnology worker x

Can GMOs rescue threatened plants and crops?

Some scientists and ecologists argue that humans are in the midst of an "extinction crisis" — the sixth wave of ...
food globe x

Are GMOs necessary to feed the world?

Experts estimate that agricultural production needs to roughly double in the coming decades. How can that be achieved? ...
eating gmo corn on the cob x

Are GMOs safe?

In 2015, 15 scientists and activists issued a statement, "No Scientific consensus on GMO safety," in the journal Environmental Sciences ...
glp profiles GLP Profiles More...
Screen Shot at PM

Charles Benbrook: Agricultural economist and consultant for the organic industry and anti-biotechnology advocacy groups

Independent scientists rip Benbrook's co-authored commentary in New England Journal calling for reassessment of dangers of all GMO crops and herbicides ...
Screen Shot at PM

ETC Group: ‘Extreme’ biotechnology critic campaigns against synthetic biology and other forms of ‘extreme genetic engineering’

The ETC Group is an international environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Canada whose stated purpose is to monitor "the impact of emerging technologies and ...
report this ad report this ad report this ad


News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend