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Extinct Species of Early Human Survived On Grass Bulbs, Not Meat 318

Philip Ross writes "Fresh analysis of an extinct relative of humans suggests our ancient ancestors dined primarily on tiger nuts, which are edible grass bulbs, settling a discrepancy over what made up prehistoric diets. According to a new study published in the journal PLOS One, the strong-jawed ancient hominin known as Paranthropus boisei, nicknamed 'Nutcracker Man,' which roamed East Africa between 2.4 million and 1.4 million years ago, survived on a diet scientists previously thought implausible."
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Extinct Species of Early Human Survived On Grass Bulbs, Not Meat

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 12, 2014 @10:33AM (#45931729)

    Tiger nuts? Grass bulbs?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 12, 2014 @10:42AM (#45931767)
    If they're extinct, then they didn't survive on anything, did they?
  • by elfprince13 ( 1521333 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @10:50AM (#45931803) Homepage
    Indeed. Humans are the best long distance runners on the planet, and we evolved that way so that we could chase our prey until they died of exhaustion.
  • by mordors9 ( 665662 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @10:52AM (#45931819)
    It seems like part of the (vegan) scientific community is desperate to show early man were herbivores, to tell us we must return to your roots...
  • by arashi no garou ( 699761 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @11:01AM (#45931859)

    They survived 1,000,000 years. We've been going at it for 200,000 years or so, and we're constantly at risk of killing ourselves off en masse. I'd say they did a lot better than we are doing on the species survival front.

  • by jafiwam ( 310805 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @11:06AM (#45931893) Homepage Journal

    We will be said to have dined primarily on high fructose corn syrup.

    Somehow I think there's going to be some big holes in what they actually do "know" about what those folks ate.

  • Re:Not an ancestor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @12:23PM (#45932257)

    A somewhat minor nitpick, but...

    It is generally thought that Paranthropus bosei is an /offshoot/ of the line that ultimately led to modern man, not a direct ancestor. We share ancestors, but do not descend from his line. The two lines diverged about 3 million years ago to follow their own evolutionary paths - homo towards an omnivorous diet and world domination, panthropus to munching on nuts and extinction.

    He was a relative, not an ancestor.

    Plus it is pretty iffy to base too many conclusions on a handful of skeletons (or in the case of such old homonids it's usually skeletal fragments). If archaeologists of the future only had five 20th century human skeletons available that were all found in the general area that used to be New York they might conclude that most humans of the 20th century were over weight and lived off a meat rich diet. If those five skeletons came from the horn of Africa they would conclude that during the 20th century the human race suffered from frequent famines. If the five skeletons came from the graveyard of a vegan colony they'd conclude humans of the 20th century were predominantly vegan. If the discoveries in Dmanisi, Georgia [] have taught us anything it is that one should not base too many sweeping conclusions on a handful of samples. []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 12, 2014 @12:30PM (#45932279)

    You mean vegans, more precisely. Vegetarians usually (not always) eat animal products which do not involve slaughter of the animal, such as eggs & cheese -- both of which supply B12. The body only needs an extremely small ammount of B12, the smallest amount of any vitamin.

    Anyhow, until vegans evolve away from the requirement for B12, or go extinct, it's really not hard for them to get enough from commonly B12 fortified products. Much tofu, nutritional yeast, and other common vegan ingredients are fortified with non-animal sources of B12.

  • by guises ( 2423402 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @12:37PM (#45932317)
    You seem to be implying that meat consumption means that you don't have to pay attention to what you eat. Really, it just seems like your girlfriend was more conscientious about her diet than you were. Which maybe isn't that surprising - being vegan implies that you're paying attention to what you eat.
  • Re:Not an ancestor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @01:42PM (#45932677) Homepage

    You only need to go back 200 years before we had anything like modern refrigeration and the food had to be very fresh and very local. Most people were subsistance farmers, meaning they primarily ate what they produced. If you had game, you ate game and if you didn't, you didn't. If you had a river or lake nearby with fish you ate fish, if not you didn't. If barley grew better than wheat, you ate barley. Your diet was defined by your surroundings.

  • by hawkinspeter ( 831501 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @02:17PM (#45932875)
    However, humans do seem to be adapted for something like persistence hunting. Our ability to run long distances in the hot African midday sun would soon cause an antelope to drop dead of heat exhaustion probably way before they got to be 20 miles away. Our lack of thick hair and sweating ability do point towards a remarkable ability to withstand heat. Also, animals running tend to loop in a large circle rather than travelling a long distance.

    And, I'm not a runner (although I do a load of cycling which is also endurance based).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 12, 2014 @02:32PM (#45932955)

    The sad/sick part with vegans is that they need to get their energy from *other* sources.

    This often means energy vampirism, extracted by emotionally tormenting friends, family members and worst of all, their own children. Passive/aggressive, sneaky, whiny, needy, bullshit behavior which is EXHAUSTING to be around, because they are literally *exhausting* you by sucking away your life force to make up for the fact that they don't take in energy the way they are supposed to.

    Energy must come from somewhere. Leaves don't have nearly enough. Meat and especially fat are the densest forms of energy available to humans. If you don't eat meat, you're not capable of evolving emotionally/psychologically, simple as that. This is why you can push a vegan over with half a breath, or you need to hide from them because they're emotionally toxic.

    And plants are alive! Killing them is no different than killing anything else, except vegans pretend that killing them is somehow not important, somehow not the same as killing a more complex organism, and thus visit enormous disrespect upon those creatures, denying them recognition of their own sacred existence.

    Living on high carb diets is a sort of stop gap solution, but it's addictive and it destroys your health.

  • by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @03:18PM (#45933227)

    Persistence hunting is impossible in anything but big open fields

    Like, say, the open savanna where homo sapiens evolved?

    (nobody's dragging an antelope back 20 miles)

    If your hunting party has any strategy, you won't chase it those 20 miles in a straight line.

    Humans get foot injuries easily.

    Humans who have worn shoes all their lives get foot injuries easily.

  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @03:36PM (#45933329) Journal

    It takes a remarkable amount of calories to run each mile. Lean meat has very few calories. You're quite unlikely to come out ahead with this strategy. Finding an already sick or injured animal (or a very young one) without much "run" left in it is a much better plan. Ambush and a short chase is a much better plan. There's a reason no actual predators use the "run until the prey dies of exhaustion" strategy.

    Never be both a beater and a shooter, as the saying goes. Amusing, but true.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 12, 2014 @04:43PM (#45933653)

    Besides being horribly unethical in the short term and having historically poor selection criteria, there's nothing wrong with the principle of eugenics. It's basically just a breeding strategy for humans and if done correctly it could work out well. (Of course, "done correctly" means maintaining overall diversity, only selecting for actually heritable traits, etc.)

    It's easy to pick on because it's historically been used as a pseudo-scientific means to legitimize racism and it's hugely at odds with the idea of individual liberty. But scientifically, the theory is sound.

I've got a bad feeling about this.