Of Fruits and Men: How Fruits Influenced Human Evolution
Submitted by Food Democracy Now on September 3, 2015 - 10:14pm
By: Ashwin Ramesh
Could fruits have changed the entire direction of human evolution? What do religious beliefs have to say in this; does the Forbidden fruit ring any bells? Well, this may seem pretty random unless you have knowledge about the science of Epigenetics. This is the study of how environmental factors have an impact on the genetic make-up of man. In this case, environmental factors include aspects such as diet as well. In other words, Epigenetics can point to the fact that fruits had such an immense effect on our genomic composition that we literally changed tracks in the chain of human evolution.
In order to understand what kind of effect fruits had on humans, we have to travel back to the Paleolithic era. The relationship that we share with fruits goes back to our most primitive origins, when man walked on all fours and went foraging across the forest in search of food. Amongst the myriad hues of green, he spotted a red colored orb hanging from a tree. The intense hue of this orb caught his attention as he scurried across to take a closer look at it. As primitive man stumbled upon this magical product of nature, his intuition led him to use his senses to gauge what exactly he had come across, until he finally took a large juicy bite of it. This one act changed the course of the relationship between man and nature to such an extent that its repercussions can be seen even today.
Tripped Out Fact: There is a substantial amount of evidence that points to the fact that human evolution moved onto the fast lane of evolution during the Paleolithic era. The amount of sophistication and development that occurred in the human brain during this era is unparalleled even today. Several Epigenetic scholars attribute this to increase consumption of fruits during this period.
We have an inherent urge to attract mates of the opposite sex towards us. Moreover, we as humans crave the company of other individuals around us, like-minded ones at that. In order to do this, we have a tendency to dress up nicely, put on a bit of make up so as to look attractive. We also like to smell nice, look good and talk about interesting things in order to please others. So, what does this have to do with fruits?
Well, fruits are designed in such a way so that they can attract vectors which may eat them and then spread their seeds far and wide. In a way, fruits try their best to attract vectors which may then eat them. In fact, if you think about it, fruits want to be eaten so that their seeds can be propagated. That is the reason they are endowed with colorful hues, aromatic smells as well as fleshy and juicy flavors or tastes. These external characteristics develop through the various stages of maturation of a fruit. During their early stages of maturation fruits are usually characterized by acidic tastes and usually bland hues, such as green and yellow which do not stand out from the foliage of the forest. Once the fruit ripens, it achieves its characteristic hue as well as its characteristic taste.
Tripped Out Fact: Nowadays, humans have successfully manipulated genomic structures of fruits in order to produce high quality hybrids of the same. We have successfully made fruits with better shelf life, more vibrant colors, better taste and so on. This means we are now conditioning fruits to be better than their natural selves, just like we have been doing since quite a while now.
The pigments in the fruit change as the biochemical reactions inside the fruit convert all necessary acids and starches into sugars and sweet-tasting juicy goo, just the way we like it. In other words, ripening of a fruit can be said to be the time when a fruit comes of age. In humans, coming of age can be described in a similar fashion. When confused teenagers, full of rebellious anger, pent-up emotions and unresolved thought processes start to understand themselves better and come to terms with who they are, they start to develop the characteristics which carry them forward in their lives.
Tripped Out Fact: Fruits have essentially evolved with humans and their ways of life. For instance, apples in the Paleolithic era were as small as cherries while they have grown to their present size in modern times. This shows that the growth and development in fruits are quite similar to those in humans.
In a way, they have undergone the phase of ripening and are ready to be “eaten”. Now, there arises a dilemma. If fruits and humans are to be compared, where does the “eating” part come in? Are we talking about cannibalism or something along those lines. Well, thankfully, we are not.
What eating a fruit basically signifies is the conversion of all the nutrients in the flesh of the fruit into energy once it is consumed by a vector. Moreover, the vector also serves as a medium for the transport of the seed of the fruit for the purpose of propagation. The contents of the fruit have been mobilized into energy while its seeds are spread across the land.
We humans are also powerhouses of energy and essentially utilize the energy for some particular form of action. In a way, we are using our energy for something productive. It only matters how we use it and channelize it into something worth doing. This is one aspect that we can definitely learn from nature, especially from the way fruits exhibit colors, hues and tastes in order to ensure their propagation.
So picture this; the fruits of knowledge and passion are eaten and propagated through modes of expression such as art, music, writing and so on. In a way, this article is the seed from my fruit of knowledge that I have set off into the virtual wind of the Internet. This seed may flower anywhere, in anyone in the form of an idea. Let it blossom!