Human ancestors’ diet changed 3.5 million years ago

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A new analysis of early human teeth from extinct fossils has found that they expanded their diets about 3.5 million years ago to include grasses and possibly animals.


Before this, humanlike creatures – or hominins – ate a forest-based diet similar to modern gorillas and chimps.

Researchers analysed fossilised tooth enamel of 11 species of hominins and other primates found in East Africa.

The findings appear in four papers published in PNAS journal.

Like chimpanzees today, many of our early human ancestors lived in forests and ate a diet of leaves and fruits from trees, shrubs and herbs.

But scientists have now found that this changed 3.5 million years ago in the speciesAustralopithecus afarensis and Kenyanthropus platyops.

Their diet included grasses, sedges, and possibly animals that ate such plants. They also tended to live in the open savannahs of Africa.

Written By: Melissa Hogenboom
continue to source article at bbc.co.uk

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  1. Climate change forced Hominids to adapt to new habitat and diversify their diet. Gorillas are essentially vegitarian, Chimps are occasional meat eaters but predominantly vegetarians, early homininids are closer in their diet to hamadryas babboons who live in East Africa. Consumption of fish/omega 3 fatty acids is something that later hominids did, though rarely other apes ? did that distinguish us from other apes and possibly explain our improved brain function.
    Becoming more omnivorous or less fussy allowed us to wander anywhere and try to eat anything – not being tied to specific areas and diets – is a very good way to survive and thrive.

  2. How does the change in diet fit in with bi-pedal locomotion?

    I thought our ancestors became bi-pedal much earlier than 3.5 million years ago, but that would not make much sense if they were eating a forest based diet, like gorillas and chimpanzees, up to that point.

  3. Would not eating sedges require something pretty drastic changed in the digestive tract? I don’t think a modern human could extract much nutrition from them. We would be quite pot bellied. Presumably we would more more like horses that cows in our ability to handle cellulose.

      • In reply to #7 by bluebird:

        In reply to #5 by edward.jf.price:

        Could this diet include Psilosybin mushrooms?

        “…help me, what’s wrong? I can’t reach the counter – I’m so small, everything is so big…”

        Hmmm I am not familiar with the quote i Googled it, but I can not find anything and I do not understand it.
        Are you mocking me? lol

        • In reply to #8 by edward.jf.price:

          It just reminded me of a phone call from a friend years ago – I just kept reassuring her that everything would be OK. Never tried them myself, or Peyote “buttons”.

  4. I don’t think a diet of grasses and sedges would have been very nutritious for these ‘ancestors’. Thinking of other animals, e.g. koala, sloth, the energy obtained is very low. Of course they might not be our direct ancestors. Sedges grow in watery habitats so other food, such as fish would be available. So aquatic ( riparian or littoral may be better) apes may not be so unlikely. Food for thought anyway!

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