The Diets of Early Hominins

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Science  14 Oct 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6053, pp. 190-193
DOI: 10.1126/science.1207701

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Diet changes are considered key events in human evolution. Most studies of early hominin diets focused on tooth size, shape, and craniomandibular morphology, as well as stone tools and butchered animal bones. However, in recent years, dental microwear and stable isotope analyses have hinted at unexpected diversity and complexity in early hominin diets. Some traditional ideas have held; others, such as an increasing reliance on hard-object feeding and a dichotomy between Australopithecus and Paranthropus, have been challenged. The first known evidence of C4 plant (tropical grasses and sedges) and hard-object (e.g., seeds and nuts) consumption dates to millions of years after the appearance of the earliest probable hominins, and there are no consistent trends in diet change among these species through time.

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