Diet and Primate Evolution; Becoming Human; Special Editions; by Katharine Milton; 8 Page(s)
As recently as 30 years ago, the canopy of the tropical forest was regarded as an easy place for apes, monkeys and prosimians to find food. Extending an arm, it seemed, was virtually all our primate relatives had to do to acquire a ready supply of edibles in the form of leaves, flowers, fruits, and other components of trees and vines. Since then, efforts to understand the reality of life for tree dwellers have helped overturn that misconception.
My own field studies have provided considerable evidence that obtaining adequate nutrition in the canopy--where primates evolved--is, in fact, quite difficult. This research, combined with complementary work by others, has led to another realization as well: the strategies that early primates adopted to cope with the dietary challenges of the arboreal environment profoundly influenced the evolutionary trajectory of the primate order, particularly that of the anthropoids (monkeys, apes and humans).