Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Lucy Liked Nuts

Ohhhhh, I could live on a diet of fruit and nuts!!

Early Humans On The Menu

An excerpt:
You wouldn't know it by current world events, but humans actually evolved to be peaceful, cooperative and social animals, not the predators modern mythology would have us believe, says an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis.

In his latest book, "Man the Hunted: Primates, Predators and Human Evolution," Sussman goes against the prevailing view and argues that primates, including early humans, evolved not as hunters but as prey of many predators, including wild dogs and cats, hyenas, eagles and crocodiles.

"Our intelligence, cooperation and many other features we have as modern humans developed from our attempts to out-smart the predator," says Sussman.

"Australopithecus afarensis1 was probably quite strong, like a small ape," Sussman says. Adults ranged from around 3 to 5 feet and they weighed 60-100 pounds. They were basically smallish bipedal primates. Their teeth were relatively small, very much like modern humans, and they were fruit and nut eaters.

But what Sussman and Hart discovered is that Australopithecus afarensis was not dentally pre-adapted to eat meat. "It didn't have the sharp shearing blades necessary to retain and cut such foods," Sussman says. "These early humans simply couldn't eat meat. If they couldn't eat meat, why would they hunt?"
Well, this sure recharacterized early man for me ... climbing trees to assure a safe haven from hyenas as big as bears and giant saber-toothed cats.

Sussman said that meat-eating didn't take hold until after fire was controlled. I'll bet those first few dabbles in uncontrolled fire-making was spectacular.
1 "Lucy" is an Australopithecus afarensis who lived ~3.2 million years ago. About 40% of her skeleton was found in Ethiopia in 1974. The photo is of a model of Lucy from BBC's site: Science and Nature, Prehistoric Life, Walking With Cavemen.

That site indicates Lucy's diet as consisting of soft fruit, nuts, seeds, tubers and bird eggs.

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