Anthropo-entomophagy: Cultures, evolution and sustainability


Julieta Ramos-Elorduy, Instituto de Biología, UNAM. Apartado Postal 70-153, 04510, Mexico City, Mexico.


Environmental cycles and human factors have altered ecosystems throughout the world. Natural resources have acquired high value because they are important to life and the survival of human beings. Among these resources are edible insects. They have many important features and, to date, up to 2086 species are consumed by 3071 ethnic groups. Rural people, who primarily search, gather, fix, commercialize and store this important natural resource, do not exterminate them. This is because rural people exploit only the central part of the insects' population curves. Nonetheless, some species are overexploited. Anthropo-entomophagy (eating of insects by humans) constitutes a major source of nutrition and these foods are eaten in 130 countries, with the African and American continents being the most entomophagous until now. It exists in protocultures (care is given to the edible insect species) and formal cultures, such as in Mexico, which date back to prehisphanic times. According to anthropologists the “saving gene theory” is based on insect ingestion, which, since the Paleolithic era, has given human beings reproductive success. The evolution of anthropo-entomophagy has been achieved in many ways, from the point of view of collection, fixing, marketing and consumption, and for the insects' organoleptical qualities. The sustainability of these species is fundamental; therefore, it is necessary to take certain measures for species conservation. In Mexico, more than 100 species of edible insects have been tested for their sustainability over 500 years, from the Spanish conquest to the present.