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Entomophagy and Evolution:
Eating Insects Past, Present,
and Future
Julie Lesnik
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI
entomo...
Jongema, 2012
2,040 recorded edible insects in the world
Why are
bugs not
common
cuisine
in the
US and
Europe?
entomoanthro.org
©Little Herds
©Little Herds
©Little Herds
©Little Herds
Food and Agriculture Organization
recommendations
• Further documentation of nutritional values
• Investigate environmenta...
The need for anthropology
• Food is a major topic in anthropology
• Anthropologists look to understand why
people choose t...
Biological Anthropology
“Last common ancestor”
A great ape, likely ate insects similar to the great apes today
(Social insects – ants, termites, h...
Genus Australopithecus
Upright walking apes. Likely also the same as extant apes,
and we have some archaeological evidence...
Homo erectus
Origins of foraging/division of labor as we understand it today.
Insects likely important to them as they are...
Neanderthals
Occupying Europe during the last Ice Age.
Biodiversity is low, insects likely not part of their diets.
“Modern Humans”
Intensive agriculture works against entomophagy.
Rely on “fruits of labor” even to nutritional detriment.
Brain size
Brain Size
Diet Quality and Brain Size
Fish and Lockwood, 2003
Dietary Quality and Human Evolution
• We know brain size expands over the
course of human evolution
• We know that there i...
Early hominids
• Ape-like early ancestors and
australopithecines
Species Caste Preferred By Crude
Protein
(%)
Crude
Fat(%)
Fe
(mg/100g
)
M. muelleri** Soldiers Chimps 72 5 10
C. heghi** W...
Frugivorous chimpanzees
receive plenty of
micronutrients, but protein
requirements are more difficult
to meet
Folivorous g...
• Au. robustus has the
largest brain size for the
genus Australopithecus
• Increase in diet quality
• Eating more insects ...
Australopithecus robustus
Swartkrans
About 1.7
mya
3 cm
Photos: Backwell &
d’Errico, 2001
Pattern and width
of the striations on
the Swartkrans
bone tools match
that of tool...
Genus Homo
• Homo erectus is when we start seeing
brain and body size as well as behavior
that are clearly “human”
Ethnographic examples
• In attempting to reconstruct the
evolutionary significance of insects as
food, populations living ...
The San
• When foraging, women may stop and eat termites all
day (Nonaka, 1996)
Photo:
Photographers
Direct
• Women average 15
minutes a day in
search of various
insect larvae
• They will take them
whenever
encountered (Hawkes et
...
The Arrernte
• Women,
accompanied by
their children, carry
digging sticks and go
out in search of
small fauna,
including s...
Sexual division of labor
• Women’s protein requirements increase by
50% when pregnant and lactating
• Insects may provide ...
Jongema, 2012
SanAché Arrernte
Jongema, 2012
SanAché Arrernte
Tropic of Cancer
Tropic of Capricorn
Clinal variation: Change in frequency
over geographic space
Clinal variation: Change in frequency
over geographic space
Jongema, 2012
Tropic of Cancer
Tropic of Capricorn
Tropic of Cancer in China
• Passes through the Yunnan
province
Beijing
• Most of the
insect eating
in China
occurs here
Homo erectus
First hominid to leave Africa
2.5 million years ago:
Plio-Pleistocene border
• Time of great climatic
variability, trending colder
• Many species of
mam...
Homo erectus
• Homo erectus appears around 1.8 mya in
Africa and quickly disperses, likely
following the coast line and ke...
Neanderthals
• Successfully lived
in the coldest
climates from
~200k to 38k ya
• Utilized caves,
fire, and likely
clothing
Pleistocene
• 2.5 million to 11,700 years ago
Meat-based diets in modern foragers
Biodiversity
Latitudinal Diversity Gradient
• Widely recognized phenomenon in
ecology that there tends to be an
increase in species ric...
Latitudinal Diversity Gradient
• Gradient displayed for terrestrial mammals.
• Insects?
• From: Mannion et al. (2014), bas...
Termite Diversity
• Worldwide there are over 280 genera
• There are 85 genera in the Afrotropics alone
(~1/3)
• 11 of thes...
Europe and North America?
Europe under ice until 18,000 ya
Europe
• In glaciated Europe, hunting would have been
primary subsistence
• Not long after the end of the Pleistocene,
cat...
Peopling of the Americas
• The first people here had to survive
crossing Beringia
Peopling of the Americas
• The earliest people to arrive to the New
World likely did not eat insects
• As people migrated ...
Agriculture
Agriculture
• Agriculture allows for population sizes to
increase, especially in areas that cannot
support many people
– I...
Entomophagy lost
• It is well reported that with the origins of
agriculture, nutritional health decreases
• It appears tha...
Global patterns of entomophagy
• I believe that the lack of entomophagy
in the northern latitudes is related to
long term ...
Applications
• The anthropological perspective
• Shift away from the idea of “taboo” and
think of it more as circumstance ...
May 26-28, 2016
eatinginsectsdetroit.org
entomoanthro.org
Intro to entomophagy and human evolution
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Intro to entomophagy and human evolution

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This is a presentation for a general audience to introduce them to the role of insects in the diet over the course of human evolution.

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Intro to entomophagy and human evolution

  1. 1. Entomophagy and Evolution: Eating Insects Past, Present, and Future Julie Lesnik Wayne State University Detroit, MI entomoanthro.org entomophagy anthropology
  2. 2. Jongema, 2012 2,040 recorded edible insects in the world
  3. 3. Why are bugs not common cuisine in the US and Europe? entomoanthro.org
  4. 4. ©Little Herds
  5. 5. ©Little Herds
  6. 6. ©Little Herds
  7. 7. ©Little Herds
  8. 8. Food and Agriculture Organization recommendations • Further documentation of nutritional values • Investigate environmental sustainability • Clarify socio-economic benefits • Develop legal framework for production and trade
  9. 9. The need for anthropology • Food is a major topic in anthropology • Anthropologists look to understand why people choose to eat, or not eat, certain foods • These reasons are vast
  10. 10. Biological Anthropology
  11. 11. “Last common ancestor” A great ape, likely ate insects similar to the great apes today (Social insects – ants, termites, honey)
  12. 12. Genus Australopithecus Upright walking apes. Likely also the same as extant apes, and we have some archaeological evidence that suggests this as well
  13. 13. Homo erectus Origins of foraging/division of labor as we understand it today. Insects likely important to them as they are to foragers today.
  14. 14. Neanderthals Occupying Europe during the last Ice Age. Biodiversity is low, insects likely not part of their diets.
  15. 15. “Modern Humans” Intensive agriculture works against entomophagy. Rely on “fruits of labor” even to nutritional detriment.
  16. 16. Brain size Brain Size
  17. 17. Diet Quality and Brain Size Fish and Lockwood, 2003
  18. 18. Dietary Quality and Human Evolution • We know brain size expands over the course of human evolution • We know that there is a positive relationship between dietary quality and brain size • Humans must have increased dietary quality over the course of their evolution
  19. 19. Early hominids • Ape-like early ancestors and australopithecines
  20. 20. Species Caste Preferred By Crude Protein (%) Crude Fat(%) Fe (mg/100g ) M. muelleri** Soldiers Chimps 72 5 10 C. heghi** Workers Gorillas 15 13 2962 M. falciger* Alates Humans 21 22 _ * Phelps et al 1975 **Debalauwe and Janssens, 2008 Termite Preferences and Nutrition
  21. 21. Frugivorous chimpanzees receive plenty of micronutrients, but protein requirements are more difficult to meet Folivorous gorillas receive plenty of protein from leaves, but micronutrient requirements are more difficult to meet Photos: Abigail Lubliner & Rob Kroenert Great ape termite preferences reflect their diets
  22. 22. • Au. robustus has the largest brain size for the genus Australopithecus • Increase in diet quality • Eating more insects or insects with greater nutritional value - fatty reproductive termites, for instance - would aid in this brain size shift
  23. 23. Australopithecus robustus Swartkrans About 1.7 mya
  24. 24. 3 cm Photos: Backwell & d’Errico, 2001 Pattern and width of the striations on the Swartkrans bone tools match that of tools used to experimentally excavate termite mounds
  25. 25. Genus Homo • Homo erectus is when we start seeing brain and body size as well as behavior that are clearly “human”
  26. 26. Ethnographic examples • In attempting to reconstruct the evolutionary significance of insects as food, populations living at the subsistence level are of most interest
  27. 27. The San • When foraging, women may stop and eat termites all day (Nonaka, 1996) Photo: Photographers Direct
  28. 28. • Women average 15 minutes a day in search of various insect larvae • They will take them whenever encountered (Hawkes et al., 1982) Photo: F1 Online Photos The Aché
  29. 29. The Arrernte • Women, accompanied by their children, carry digging sticks and go out in search of small fauna, including social insects that are available year-round (Bodenheimer, 1951) Photo: Spencer and Gillan, 1899
  30. 30. Sexual division of labor • Women’s protein requirements increase by 50% when pregnant and lactating • Insects may provide a reliable source of this nutrient they can obtain even when accompanied by small children • This pattern of behavior could be expected for our early ancestors as well
  31. 31. Jongema, 2012 SanAché Arrernte
  32. 32. Jongema, 2012 SanAché Arrernte Tropic of Cancer Tropic of Capricorn
  33. 33. Clinal variation: Change in frequency over geographic space
  34. 34. Clinal variation: Change in frequency over geographic space
  35. 35. Jongema, 2012 Tropic of Cancer Tropic of Capricorn
  36. 36. Tropic of Cancer in China • Passes through the Yunnan province Beijing • Most of the insect eating in China occurs here
  37. 37. Homo erectus First hominid to leave Africa
  38. 38. 2.5 million years ago: Plio-Pleistocene border • Time of great climatic variability, trending colder • Many species of mammals went extinct at this time • The origins of our genus, Homo, coincides with the time – Intelligence and adaptability
  39. 39. Homo erectus • Homo erectus appears around 1.8 mya in Africa and quickly disperses, likely following the coast line and keeping in temperate zones
  40. 40. Neanderthals • Successfully lived in the coldest climates from ~200k to 38k ya • Utilized caves, fire, and likely clothing
  41. 41. Pleistocene • 2.5 million to 11,700 years ago
  42. 42. Meat-based diets in modern foragers
  43. 43. Biodiversity
  44. 44. Latitudinal Diversity Gradient • Widely recognized phenomenon in ecology that there tends to be an increase in species richness moving towards the tropics • No single explanation. Possible combination of increased energy availability and environmental stability
  45. 45. Latitudinal Diversity Gradient • Gradient displayed for terrestrial mammals. • Insects? • From: Mannion et al. (2014), based on work by Clinton Jenkins.
  46. 46. Termite Diversity • Worldwide there are over 280 genera • There are 85 genera in the Afrotropics alone (~1/3) • 11 of these are known to be used as food • In areas with less diversity, there are less food options
  47. 47. Europe and North America?
  48. 48. Europe under ice until 18,000 ya
  49. 49. Europe • In glaciated Europe, hunting would have been primary subsistence • Not long after the end of the Pleistocene, cattle domestication occurs (about 10kya) • With animal resources well-represented in the diet, and insects being less plentiful at northern latitudes, entomophagy is not likely
  50. 50. Peopling of the Americas • The first people here had to survive crossing Beringia
  51. 51. Peopling of the Americas • The earliest people to arrive to the New World likely did not eat insects • As people migrated further and settled in and around tropic zones, insect eating may have been essential
  52. 52. Agriculture
  53. 53. Agriculture • Agriculture allows for population sizes to increase, especially in areas that cannot support many people – Islands – High altitude – Arid regions
  54. 54. Entomophagy lost • It is well reported that with the origins of agriculture, nutritional health decreases • It appears that when energy is put towards agricultural intensification, less energy is put towards foraging, which reduces dietary variability • Where insect foraging is the easiest – the tropics – we see entomophagy persisting
  55. 55. Global patterns of entomophagy • I believe that the lack of entomophagy in the northern latitudes is related to long term occupation in these climates where biodiversity is significantly less than in the tropics • Forest resources are not as available and efforts go to more intensive cultivation
  56. 56. Applications • The anthropological perspective • Shift away from the idea of “taboo” and think of it more as circumstance of geography and history. • Raw fish was not “taboo” in NA/EU, it was just not something we did..
  57. 57. May 26-28, 2016 eatinginsectsdetroit.org
  58. 58. entomoanthro.org

This is a presentation for a general audience to introduce them to the role of insects in the diet over the course of human evolution.

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