Amanda Dawn Melin

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Calgary, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9874

Approve Date

May 8, 2019

Project Title

Melin, Amanda (Calgary, U. of) "Evolutionary and Ecological Underpinnings of Human Ethanol Metabolism"

Dietary ethanol (alcohol) is a topic of enduring interest to anthropologists, unifying the subfields of archaeology, cultural anthropology and biological anthropology. Our proclivity for ethanol has evolutionary roots that predate human-directed fermentation and we are anomalous among mammals in our ability to metabolize ethanol efficiently, a characteristic we share with African apes. Yet, the origins of our preferences for, and adaptations to, alcohol are poorly understood. Here we propose to test central tenets of the hypothesis that increased exposure to dietary ethanol favored digestive adaptations in the last common ancestor of humans, chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas. By measuring ethanol concentrations in naturally occurring foods in geographically diverse primate habitats, together with a comprehensive study of genes and enzymes underlying ethanol metabolism in humans and our close relatives, we will reveal human-specific adaptations, as well as those shared with other primates and closely related mammals. Overall, our research will provide new, fundamental knowledge about the evolutionary heritage of ethanol proclivities in our lineage. Given the widespread importance of ethanol to human society and culture this is a timely and relevant topic that unites and contributes to diverse areas of anthropology.