Researchers have found that the primate ancestors of humans were able to metabolize alcohol much earlier than originally thought.
Previously, it was believed that hominids developed the ability to handle alcohol just 9,000 years ago, but it was likely 10 million years ago. Researchers looked back to see when an enzyme called Class IV alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH4), which breaks down alcohol on the tongue and in the esophagus and stomach, was in the guts of primates. The team found a vast amount in the gorilla, from whose lineage humans diverged about 10 million years ago, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Researchers say this makes sense, as it coincides with the middle Miocene climatic transition, when our ancestors ate tree fruits that fell to the ground and were likely in various stages of fermentation.