Diet in Early Homo: A Review of the Evidence and a New Model of Adaptive Versatility

Posted: 9 Jan 2008

See all articles by Peter S. Ungar

Peter S. Ungar

University of Arkansas - Department of Anthropology

­ Frederick E. Grine

State University of New York (SUNY), Stony Brook

Mark F. Teaford

Johns Hopkins University - Department of Medicine

Abstract

Several recent studies have stressed the role of dietary change in the origin and early evolution of our genus in Africa. Resulting models have been based on nutrition research and analogy to living peoples and nonhuman primates or on archeological and paleoenvironmental evidence. Here we evaluate these models in the context of the hominin fossil record. Inference of diet from fossils is hampered by small samples, unclear form-function relationships, taphonomic factors, and interactions between cultural and natural selection. Nevertheless, craniodental remains of Homo habilis, H. rudolfensis, and H. erectus offer some clues. For example, there appears to be no simple transition from an australopith to a Homo grade of dietary adaptation, or from closed forest plant diets to reliance on more open-country plants or animals. Early Homo species more likely had adaptations for flexible, versatile subsistence strategies that would have served them well in the variable paleoenvironments of the African Plio-Pleistocene.

Keywords: erectus, Homo rudolfensis, Homo habilis, feeding adaptations, Hominin

Suggested Citation

Ungar, Peter S. and Grine, ­ Frederick E. and Teaford, Mark F., Diet in Early Homo: A Review of the Evidence and a New Model of Adaptive Versatility. Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 35, October 2006, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1081382

Peter S. Ungar (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas - Department of Anthropology ( email )

Fayettetville, AK 72701
United States

­ Frederick E. Grine

State University of New York (SUNY), Stony Brook ( email )

Health Science Center
Stony Brook, NY 11794
United States

Mark F. Teaford

Johns Hopkins University - Department of Medicine ( email )

Baltimore, MD 21205
United States

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