Spotting that nasty taste could well have saved our lives

Being able to distinguish the sweetness of oranges from the bitter taste of lemons may have evolved as a protection against eating poisonous plants, according to new genetic research.

Research by an international team, examined the sequence of one of 25 genes that encode bitter taste receptors in the tongue, and reviewed the occurrence of the gene in 60 human populations across the world.

Apparently by reconstructing the history of the gene, they found evidence to suggest that humans' ability to taste bitterness developed through evolutionary selection.

Lead author Nicole Soranzo, of the University College London, says that being able to detect signatures of selection for a bitter taste receptor, suggests that sensory detection of dangerous foods played an important role at certain times during the course of our evolution.

The research is published in the July 26 issue of Current Biology.

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