News / Science & Technology

Early Human Ancestor Ate Bark, Twigs

Skull of Australopith discovered in South AfricaSkull of Australopith discovered in South Africa
x
Skull of Australopith discovered in South Africa
Skull of Australopith discovered in South Africa
TEXT SIZE - +
Jessica Berman
Anthropologists analyzing the two-million-year-old fossilized teeth of an ape-like biped have determined the pre-human creatures probably ate a diet rich in fruits, nuts, leaves and tree bark. The surprising discovery suggests these human ancestors were more like forest-dwelling chimpanzees than savannah-strolling early humans.

Anthropologists examined two fossilized teeth from a creature called Australopithecus sediba, discovered in a cave in South Africa in 2008. The fossils belong to one of several extinct hominins, or ape-like species, believed to be relatives but not direct ancestors of homo sapiens - modern humans.

The small Australopithecus sediba, or A. sediba, walked upright, like homo sapiens, but had a face, small brain and long arms more like a chimpanzee.  An analysis of material found in its fossilized teeth revealed the creature ate a very chimp-like diet of bark, twigs, nuts and berries.

Darryl de Ruiter, an associate professor of anthropology at Texas A & M University in College Station, was part of the international team that first excavated and examined the remains.

De Ruiter says anthropologists paid special attention to what remained of the sticky dental plaque still evident on the creature's teeth.

"It's that stuff, that plaque, that builds up on your teeth if you don't brush them regularly. And since these Australopiths did not brush their teeth, we have a fairly good record of preserved plant parts that were stuck in their teeth, that actually told us in very clear terms what they actually, physically put in their mouth and chewed on," De Ruiter said.

De Ruiter says documented diets of other Australopiths living on open grasslands and savannah-like areas show they had some forms of protein or meat in their diets.  The researcher says it appears A. sediba is the first hominin to survive almost entirely on a forest-based diet, suggesting that it lived in a more wooded environment than previously thought.

"..things like nuts and leaves and berries, and even bark and other components of trees, that chimpanzees regularly, or at least occasionally, feed on.  But we've never documented it before in Australopith," De Ruiter said.

However, de Ruiter doesn't rule out that A. sediba occasionally consumed asome protein in the form of insects or meat.

While Australopiths are related to modern humans in some way, discoveries about the creatures' diet could help clarify that lineage.   

An article describing the forest-based diet of the early human ancestor, Australepithecus sediba, is published in the journal Nature.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid