News of the WeekPaleoanthropology

Did Early African Hominids Eat Meat?

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Science  15 Jan 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5400, pp. 303
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5400.303

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Anthropologists have thought that Australopithecus africanus, a small-brained hominid that walked upright but was probably also at home in the trees, subsisted on forest fruits and leaves, but on page 368, researchers use a clever new method based on the chemical makeup of teeth to show that it ate a varied diet, including either grassland plants or animals that themselves fed on grasses. Many theories of human origins invoke a switch to a meat-rich diet to explain the sudden swelling of brain power in our own genus, Homo; the new data raise the possibility that meat-eating is not the exclusive province of Homo but a strategy adopted by more primitive species too.