Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Diet Diverged In Earliest Human Ancestors, Researchers Find

Date:
December 27, 2000
Source:
University Of Arkansas
Summary:
Dietary diversity distinguished the diets of our earliest human ancestors, starting a trend that eventually led to the ability of human beings to colonize different types of terrain all over the world, according to two researchers.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Dietary diversity distinguished the diets of our earliest human ancestors, starting a trend that eventually led to the ability of human beings to colonize different types of terrain all over the world, according to two researchers.

Related Articles


Peter Ungar, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas, and Mark Teaford, professor of cell biology and anatomy at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, report their findings in the Dec. 5 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Ungar and Teaford used dental and jaw data from Ardipithecus ramidus, Australopithecus anamensis, Australopithecus afarensis and Australopithecus africanus, Pliocene hominids that date back 2.3 to 4.4 million years ago. They looked at tooth size, tooth shape, tooth enamel structure, dental microwear and mandibular biomechanics of the fossils, most of which date back to a time before stone tools, before culture and before meat was introduced to the diet.

"No one has looked at diet variability within this group," Ungar said. "Until now, we had no idea of what happened from the standpoint of diet in the first half of human evolution."

The researchers found that even the dental fossils of the oldest human ancestor studied -- Ardipithecus ramidus -- showed signs of a generalized diet. A few hundred thousand years later, the fossils show larger teeth with thicker enamel, and a million years later the fossils sport larger teeth and heavier jaws suited for heavy chewing of hard, brittle foods. But microscopic marks on the teeth also indicate that the hominids had not lost the ability to eat soft, tough foods, like fruit.

"You're seeing an ability to broaden the diet," Ungar said.

This generalized diet became crucial 2.5 million years ago, when our human ancestors split from the specialized forms of hominid species that eventually died out. Researchers speculate that the hominids with a more varied diet were able to survive environmental changes, while the specialists could not adapt quickly enough.

Until now, there was no evidence of dietary changes in the first half of human evolution. Ungar and Teaford's research shows that diets were changing throughout the evolution of our human ancestors, from the time soon after they split from the apes.

"The specialists and generalists branch off, but both stem from a trend that started 5 million years ago," Ungar said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Arkansas. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Arkansas. "Diet Diverged In Earliest Human Ancestors, Researchers Find." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 December 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/12/001221073953.htm>.
University Of Arkansas. (2000, December 27). Diet Diverged In Earliest Human Ancestors, Researchers Find. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/12/001221073953.htm
University Of Arkansas. "Diet Diverged In Earliest Human Ancestors, Researchers Find." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/12/001221073953.htm (accessed February 28, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Gerbils, Not Rats, Might Be To Blame For The Black Death

Gerbils, Not Rats, Might Be To Blame For The Black Death

Newsy (Feb. 24, 2015) The "black death" that killed tens of millions of people has been blamed on rats for years, but now researchers say they may have gotten a bad rap. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Timbuktu Manuscripts Face an Uncertain Future

Timbuktu Manuscripts Face an Uncertain Future

AFP (Feb. 23, 2015) Two years ago a large number of manuscripts were taken from Timbuktu for safe keeping. Now the question is whether to return them. Duration: 02:50 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Did A Mummy End Up In A 1,000-Year-Old Buddha Statue?

How Did A Mummy End Up In A 1,000-Year-Old Buddha Statue?

Newsy (Feb. 23, 2015) A CT scan has revealed a mummified Chinese monk inside a Buddha statue. The remains date back about 1,000 years. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rare First Folio Arrives at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Rare First Folio Arrives at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Feb. 23, 2015) A rare First Folio discovered in a French library arrives at the Shakespeare&apos;s Globe Theatre in London, where the Bard&apos;s plays were first performed. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins