Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Reconstructing the diet of African hominid Australopithecus anamensis

Date:
July 17, 2012
Source:
Universidad de Barcelona
Summary:
The diet of Australopithecus anamensis, a hominid that lived in the east of the African continent more than 4 million years ago, was very specialized and, according to a new study, it included foods typical of open environments (seeds, sedges, grasses, etc.), as well as fruits and tubers.

SEM images of buccal microstriation pattern of specimens studied: Au. anamensis (a-e) and Au. afarensis (f).

The diet of Australopithecus anamensis, a hominid that lived in the east of the African continent more than 4 million years ago, was very specialized and, according to a scientific study whose principal author is Ferran Estebaranz, from the Department of Animal Biology at the University of Barcelona, it included foods typical of open environments (seeds, sedges, grasses, etc.), as well as fruits and tubers.

The work, published in the Journal of Anthropological Sciences, is directed by lecturer Alejandro Pérez Pérez, from the Anthropology Unit of the Department of Animal Biology at the UB, and its co-authors are professor Daniel Turbón and experts Jordi Galbany and Laura M. Martínez.

Australopithecus anamensis is a fossil hominid species described in 1995 by a team led by the researcher Meave Leakey and it is considered to be the direct ancestor of Australopithecus afarensis, known as Lucy, which lived in the same region half a million years later. The paleoecological reconstructions of the sites with Australopithecus anamensis fossil remains are quite similar to those of Australopithecus afarensis, and suggest a scene with different habitats, from open forests to thick plant formations, with herbaceous strata and gallery forests.

Traditionally, the reconstruction of the diet of Australopithecus anamensis was carried out by means of indirect evidence (specifically, studies of microstructure and enamel thickness, and the dental size and morphology). In this new study, the team of the UB analyzes the pattern of microstriation of the post-canine dentition, from microscopic traces that some structural components of plants (phytoliths) and other external elements (sand, dust, etc.) leave in the dental enamel during the chewing of food. It is, therefore, a direct analysis of the result of the interaction of the diet with the teeth.

A cercopithecoid model for the study of the diet

The work published in the Journal of Anthropological Sciences studies the microstriation pattern of all the specimens of Australopithecus anamensis recovered up to the year 2003, of which only five are in a good state of preservation. According to the study of the microstriation pattern, the diet of Anthropological anamensis was similar to other present day species of cercopithecoid primates, such as Papio genus(baboons) and Chlorocebus (green monkey), which live in shrubby savannah areas with a marked seasonal influence. The work arrived at the conclusion that the diet of Australopithecus anamensis was quite abrasive and rich in seeds, leaves and corms, as it is with the baboons of today. This fossil hominid must also have fed on fruit, but in smaller proportions than Australopithecus afarensis.

What did Australopithecus afarensis eat?

The results of the study on the palaeodiet of Australopithecus anamensis match the characteristics of dental morphology and increased robustness of the dentition and the masticatory apparatus compared with its ancestor, Ardipithecus ramidus. The new questions now focus on the diet of Australopithecus afarensis, direct descendent of Australopithecus anamensis, which has a frugivorous and much softer diet, like present day chimpanzees and gorillas in Cameroon.

As explained by the researcher Ferran Estebaranz,"the microstriation pattern of Australopithecus anamensis and Australopithecus afarensis is clearly different. This could indicate that the former consumed much harder foodstuffs, whereas the latter had a basically frugivorous diet, of a seasonal character, more similar to the direct ancestor of the two species, Ardipithecus ramidus."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Universidad de Barcelona. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ferran Estebaranz, Jordi Galbany, Laura M Martínez, Daniel Turbón & Alejandro Pérez-Pérez. Buccal dental microwear analyses support greater specialization in consumption of hard foodstuffs for Australopithecus anamensis. Journal of Anthropological Sciences, 2012; 90: 1-24 DOI: 10.4436/jass.90006

Cite This Page:

Universidad de Barcelona. "Reconstructing the diet of African hominid Australopithecus anamensis." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120717084813.htm>.
Universidad de Barcelona. (2012, July 17). Reconstructing the diet of African hominid Australopithecus anamensis. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120717084813.htm
Universidad de Barcelona. "Reconstructing the diet of African hominid Australopithecus anamensis." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120717084813.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) — The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Did ISIS Destroy Jonah's Tomb?

Did ISIS Destroy Jonah's Tomb?

Newsy (July 25, 2014) — Unverified footage posted to YouTube purportedly shows ISIS militants destroying a shrine widely believed to be the tomb of the prophet Jonah. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

AFP (July 25, 2014) — Europe's highest train, the little train of Artouste in the French Pyrenees, celebrates its 80th birthday. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Richard III's Car Park Burial Site Opens to Public

Richard III's Car Park Burial Site Opens to Public

AFP (July 25, 2014) — Visitors will be able to look down from a glass walkway on the grave of King Richard III when a new centre opens in the English cathedral city of Leicester, where the infamous hunchback was found under a car park in 2012. Duration: 00:35 Video provided by AFP
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:
from the past week

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