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Human ancestors gave up vegetarian diet 2 million years ago

Sun, 6th Jun 2010

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New archaeological evidence suggests human ancestors gave up their vegetarian diet and began feasting on land and aquatic animals 2 million years ago, perhaps boosting their brain size in the process.

Butchered remains of crocodiles, turtles, and fish were found by David Braun from the University of Cape Town in South Africa and his team who excavated the Koobi fora formation in northern Kenya.

A butcher in hong kongThe findings, published in the journal PNAS, provide some of the earliest evidence for meat-eating among human ancestors.

Cut marks on the fossilized bones, and evidence for bone marrow extraction, support theories it was stone tool-wielding humans that ate these animals and not other predatory animals.

No hominin bones were found in the formation so we can’t be sure who the butchers were, judging by the timing it could have been Homo habilis or perhaps late australopithecines.

Aquatic species are especially rich in docosahexaenoic acid, a form of omega 3 fatty acid that is critical in human brain growth. It is possible that a diet rich in omega 3 could have played a role in the rapid development of brain size – that essential human characteristic. But for now we don’t know if the world’s first butchers were eating crocodiles and fish as part of a staple diet, or an occasional meaty treat.

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