Great apes prefer cooked food
The cooking hypothesis proposes that a diet of cooked food was responsible for diverse morphological and behavioral changes in human evolution. However, it does not predict whether a preference for cooked food evolved before or after the control of fire. This question is important because the greater the preference shown by a raw-food-eating hominid for the properties present in cooked food, the more easily cooking should have been adopted following the control of fire. Here we use great apes to model food preferences by Paleolithic hominids. We conducted preference tests with various plant and animal foods to determine whether great apes prefer food items raw or cooked. We found that several populations of captive apes tended to prefer their food cooked, though with important exceptions. These results suggest that Paleolithic hominids would likewise have spontaneously preferred cooked food to raw, exapting a pre-existing preference for high-quality, easily chewed foods onto these cooked items. The results, therefore, challenge the hypothesis that the control of fire preceded cooking by a significant period.