Diet and the evolution of the earliest human ancestors.

Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 725 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.81). 01/2001; 97(25):13506-11. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.260368897
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Over the past decade, discussions of the evolution of the earliest human ancestors have focused on the locomotion of the australopithecines. Recent discoveries in a broad range of disciplines have raised important questions about the influence of ecological factors in early human evolution. Here we trace the cranial and dental traits of the early australopithecines through time, to show that between 4.4 million and 2.3 million years ago, the dietary capabilities of the earliest hominids changed dramatically, leaving them well suited for life in a variety of habitats and able to cope with significant changes in resource availability associated with long-term and short-term climatic fluctuations.

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    ABSTRACT: Au. anamensis es un hominino del Plio-Pleistoceno que habitó en un rango amplio de ambientes, que incluía ambientes cerrados y zonas más abiertas de sabana. El análisis de su patrón de microestriación vestibular (n=5) muestra una abrasividad superior (NT=220,60) al de Au. afarensis (NT: 150,69). En cambio, el patrón de Au. anamen-sis muestra claras afinidades con el de varias especies cercopitecoi-deas como Cercocebus , Mandrillus y Cercopithecus sp., tanto para el número total de estrías como en un análisis discriminante. Estos re-sultados indican que Au. anamensis presentaba un régimen alimen-tario de tipo frugívoro-granívoro similar al de los cercopitécidos ac-tuales (semillas, nueces, rizomas, tubérculos, raíces), a diferencia de Au. afarensis, una especie eminentemente frugívora.
    Biodiversidad Humana y Evolución, Edited by Daniel Turbón, Lourdes Fañanás, Carme Rissech, Araceli Rosa, 01/2011: pages 450-454; Universitat de BArcelona, SEAF, Fundació Uriach 1938 and Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad., ISBN: 978-84-695-6323-6
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    ABSTRACT: The African Plio-Pleistocene hominins known as australopiths evolved derived craniodental features frequently interpreted as adaptations for feeding on either hard, or compliant/tough foods. Among australopiths, Paranthropus boisei is the most robust form, exhibiting traits traditionally hypothesized to produce high bite forces efficiently and strengthen the face against feeding stresses. However, recent mechanical analyses imply that P. boisei may not have been an efficient producer of bite force and that robust morphology in primates is not necessarily strong. Here we use an engineering method, finite element analysis, to show that the facial skeleton of P. boisei is structurally strong, exhibits a strain pattern different from that in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and Australopithecus africanus, and efficiently produces high bite force. It has been suggested that P. boisei consumed a diet of compliant/tough foods like grass blades and sedge pith. However, the blunt occlusal topography of this and other species suggests that australopiths are adapted to consume hard foods, perhaps including grass and sedge seeds. A consideration of evolutionary trends in morphology relating to feeding mechanics suggests that food processing behaviors in gracile australopiths evidently were disrupted by environmental change, perhaps contributing to the eventual evolution of Homo and Paranthropus. Anat Rec, 298:145-167, 2015. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    The Anatomical Record Advances in Integrative Anatomy and Evolutionary Biology 01/2015; 298(1):145-67. DOI:10.1002/ar.23073 · 1.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Beginning with Darwin, some have argued that predation on other vertebrates dates to the earliest stages of hominid evolution, and can explain many uniquely human anatomical and behavioral characters. Other recent workers have focused instead on scavenging, or particular plant foods. Foraging theory suggests that inclusion of any food is influenced by its profitability and distribution within the consumer's habitat. The morphology and likely cognitive abilities of Ardipithecus, Australopithecus, and early Homo suggest that while hunting and scavenging occurred, their profitability generally would have been considerably lower than in extant primates and/or modern human hunter-gatherers. On the other hand, early hominid diet modelers should not focus solely on plant foods, as this overlooks standard functional interpretations of the early hominid dentition, their remarkable demographic success, and the wide range of available food types within their likely day ranges. Any dietary model focusing too narrowly on any one food type or foraging strategy must be viewed with caution. We argue that early hominid diet can best be elucidated by consideration of their entire habitat-specific resource base, and by quantifying the potential profitability and abundance of likely available foods.
    The Quarterly Review of Biology 12/2014; 89(4):319-57. DOI:10.1086/678568 · 7.50 Impact Factor

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