Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ancestor’s diet changed seasonally

10.11.2006
A team of international scientists, including a researcher from the University of Bradford, has revealed how early human relatives varied their diet with the seasons about 1.8 million years ago.

The study appearing in the November issue of the journal Science shows that the eating habits of an early human relative called Paranthropus robustus varied between seasons and even years.

The massive facial and dental “architecture” of Paranthropus lead scientists to believe that they were vegetarians specialising in extremely hard plant foods that required a lot of crushing. Not so, say the team of scientists.

Co-author of the study, Julia Lee-Thorp, Professor of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford, said: “Previously we had only a very averaged view about the diet of Paranthropus robustus. Our earlier carbon isotope work hinted that they were not specialist vegetarians, but gave no details. Now, by analysing tiny increments of fossil enamel, we can demonstrate that what they ate changed during the year.”

The study includes researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Texas A&M University, Ohio State University and the University of Bradford.

The study analysed four fossil teeth of Paranthropus from Swartkrans, South Africa. Researchers used a laser to vapourise tiny samples of enamel, which were analysed in a mass spectrometer to determine the ratio of carbon – 13 to carbon – 12 isotopes.

The “laser ablation method” was fine-tuned at the University of Utah, where the analyses were carried out, so that it was able to handle human-sized teeth.

If the sample has a relatively high ratio of carbon – 13 to carbon -12, it means the early human relative ate a diet rich in C4 plants, such as seeds and roots from grasses. Importantly, they may also have eaten animals that ate the C4 plants.

Alternatively if the sample has a lower ratio of carbon – 13 to carbon -12, it means that the Paranthropus was eating C3 foods that included leaves and fruits of trees and shrubs.

African savannas have both C3 (trees and herbs) and C4 plants (tropical grasses), while forests have only C3 plants.

Analyses of the fossil Paranthropus teeth revealed that their diets varied in the proportion of C3 - and C4 – derived carbon both seasonally and from year to year. The year to year variation in Paranthropus’ diet “might reflect yearly differences in rainfall-related food availability,” the study’s authors write. “Another possible explanation is that these individuals were migrating between more wooded habitats and more open savannas.”

The researchers noted that Paranthropus has often been portrayed as a specialist that lacked a varied diet, and that has been used to explain why Paranthropus became extinct as Africa became drier, while tool-wielding Homo – with a highly varied diet – survived and became more successful.

The new study casts doubt on that theory by showing that Paranthropus, like Homo, also consumed a variety of foods. It shows that they were able to change their food-collecting strategies in response to changing conditions. “This implies that they were very adaptable and flexible.” says Professor Lee-Thorp.

The researchers conclude: “Thus, other biological, social or cultural differences may be needed to explain the different fates of Homo and Paranthropus.”

Emma Banks | alfa
Further information:
http://www.bradford.ac.uk/corpcomms/pressreleases

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

nachricht Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

NTU scientists build new ultrasound device using 3-D printing technology

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling

07.12.2016 | Life Sciences

How to turn white fat brown

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>