Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Grass-Eating Hominid Was The Primate Equivalent Of A Cow

Nutcracker Man didn't eat nuts after all. After a half-century of referring to an ancient pre-human as "Nutcracker Man" because of his large teeth and powerful jaw, scientists now conclude that he actually chewed grasses instead.

The study "reminds us that in paleontology, things are not always as they seem," commented Peter S. Ungar, chairman of anthropology at the University of Arkansas.

The new report, by Thure E. Cerling of the University of Utah and colleagues, is published in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cerling's team analyzed the carbon in the enamel of 24 teeth from 22 individuals who lived in East Africa between 1.4 million and 1.9 million years ago. One type of carbon is produced from tree leaves, nuts and fruit, another from grasses and grasslike plants called sedges.

It turns out that the early human known as Paranthropus boisei did not eat nuts but dined more heavily on grasses than any other human ancestor or human relative studied to date. Only an extinct species of grass-eating baboon ate more, they said.


Full story here.
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