|Title||Stable isotopes in fossil hominin tooth enamel suggest a fundamental dietary shift in the Pliocene.|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2010|
|Authors||Lee-Thorp, JA, Sponheimer, M, Passey, BH, de Ruiter, DJ, Cerling, TE|
|Journal||Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences|
|Date Published||2010 Oct 27|
|Keywords||A. africanus, A. boisei, A. robustus, africa, diet, pliocene, stable isotopes|
Accumulating isotopic evidence from fossil hominin tooth enamel has provided unexpected insights into early hominin dietary ecology. Among the South African australopiths, these data demonstrate significant contributions to the diet of carbon originally fixed by C(4) photosynthesis, consisting of C(4) tropical/savannah grasses and certain sedges, and/or animals eating C(4) foods. Moreover, high-resolution analysis of tooth enamel reveals strong intra-tooth variability in many cases, suggesting seasonal-scale dietary shifts. This pattern is quite unlike that seen in any great apes, even 'savannah' chimpanzees. The overall proportions of C(4) input persisted for well over a million years, even while environments shifted from relatively closed (ca 3 Ma) to open conditions after ca 1.8 Ma. Data from East Africa suggest a more extreme scenario, where results for Paranthropus boisei indicate a diet dominated (approx. 80%) by C(4) plants, in spite of indications from their powerful 'nutcracker' morphology for diets of hard objects. We argue that such evidence for engagement with C(4) food resources may mark a fundamental transition in the evolution of hominin lineages, and that the pattern had antecedents prior to the emergence of Australopithecus africanus. Since new isotopic evidence from Aramis suggests that it was not present in Ardipithecus ramidus at 4.4 Ma, we suggest that the origins lie in the period between 3 and 4 Myr ago.
|Alternate Journal||Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond., B, Biol. Sci.|
Stable isotopes in fossil hominin tooth enamel suggest a fundamental dietary shift in the Pliocene.
For years, I've worked on their bones. Now I'm working on their genes. Read more about the science studying these ancient people.
From a finger bone of an ancient human came the record of a completely unexpected population. My lab is working on the science of the Denisova genome.
The advent of agriculture caused natural selection to speed up greatly in humans. We're uncovering some of the ways that populations have rapidly changed during the last 10,000 years.