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Does eating meat really make us human?

THE diet plays an important role in everyday life animal, not only for your survival s reproduction, but it can also condition habitat preferences, movement patterns, energy allocated to the activity, competition, predation risk, social interactions and communication, among others.

In case of human beings, if we go back to our ancestors, food constituted an essential function in terms of habitat, migrations and interactions with the environment and its organisms.

The study now refutes the “meat made us human” hypothesis and casts doubt on the primacy of meat consumption in early human evolution.

“Once early humans started eating meat, they likely ventured into environments where animals would have died naturally by them and encountered other predators more often, leading to increased competition and risk of predation,” exemplifies SINC. Briana L. Pobiner, researcher at the Department of Anthropology at Smithsonian Institute In the United States.

Thus, the carnivore diet may also have had a major impact on the evolution of the human behavior s anatomical features. Not having sharp teeth like predators to tear flesh and access the marrow of prey, humans started using the stone industry through stone tools.

In fact, the appearance of homo erectus, about two million years ago, seemed to have been the Turning point in the evolution of the human diet: increased consumption of animals could have driven a larger size of brain and body and a reorganization of the gut. These characteristics were kept in Homo sapiens.

However, a new international study, published in the journal PNAS, now refute this hypothesis that “meat made us human” and questions the primacy of meat consumption at the beginning of human evolution. Until now, studies that supported the importance of animal consumption were based on the increase in paleoanthropological evidence with the emergence of erectus.

1.5 million-year-old fossil bones with cut marks from Koobi Fora, Kenya. / Briana Pobiner

Biased analysis of fossils

But for one change in diet leads to the acquisition of key characteristics in this hominid species must be persistent in the zooarchaeological record over time. And this can only be convincingly demonstrated by large-scale analysis, beyond a single location or location.

“Most studies on fossil bones with carnage marks are limited to examining evidence from a single deposit, or even a single layer of a deposit,” says study co-author Pobiner to SINC.

The study therefore undermines the idea that eating large amounts of meat drove evolutionary changes from our earliest ancestors.

W. Andrew Barr of George Washington University

To get a broader view of the first evidence of our meat consumption, the team has synthesized all the evidence published so far about this type of leftovers into nine main areas of research in east of africa, including 59 deposit levels, from 2.6 million years ago to 1.2 million years ago.

“We compared the patterns of butcher-marked fossil bones with the amount of fossil evidence in general to see if this was really a sign of increased meat consumption, or if it was just that digging up more fossils makes it more likely to find with butcher marks. Turns out it was the last one”, confirms the specialist.

The researchers found that when the variation in sampling effort over time is accounted for, there is no sustained increase in the relative amount of meat consumption testing after the start of sampling. erectus.

The results suggest, therefore, that the findings on the carnivorous diet would reflect a intensive sampling, rather than changes as such in human behavior. The study, therefore, undermines the idea that “eating large amounts of meat drove evolutionary changes from our early ancestors,” he emphasizes. W. Andrew Barr, Associate Professor of Anthropology at George Washington University, USA, and lead author of the study.

Meat consumption then and now

Despite this, meat consumption has played an important role in our evolutionary history. “We have evidence that some early human species, such as the neanderthals, they ate significant amounts of meat,” says Pobiner.

Today, culture (and the economy) is the great driver of the variety in the amount of meat people consume in different societies.

Briana Pobiner, Smithsonian Institution

Currently, the researcher – who has been excavating and studying fossils marked by cuts for 20 years – highlights that “culture (and economy) are the great engine of the variety in the amount of meat that people consume in different societies”.

“I think this study and its findings are of interest not just to the paleoanthropological community, but to everyone who currently base their dietary decisions on some version of this meat-eating narrative,” says Barr.

According to the researchers, large data sets are needed to understand the broad patterns of our evolutionary history. “We need more fossil samples from unsampled time periods, such as before 2 million years ago, to test the importance of meat consumption during these earlier time periods,” concludes Pobiner.


W. Andrew Barr et al. “No sustained increase in zooarchaeological evidence for carnivory after the appearance of homo erectusPNAS


Rights: Creative Commons.




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