Human ancestors in Africa about 3.4 million years ago expanded their diets beyond the leaves and fruits and began eating grasses and grass-like plants,setting the stage for expanded habitats,according to new research.
The research,by University of Utah geochemist Thure Cerling,refutes the previously held belief that those early humans shared the diets of forest-dwelling primates. The research was published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The studies analysed the tooth enamel of ancestors of humans and great apes to show early man gained a taste for grasses and sedges,grass-like plants with edged stems.
It was like the opening of a new restaurant and they didnt have to eat the same old stuff, says Cerling. No longer dependent on forests for their supply of food,the change in diet helped pave the way for early man to explore new habitats.
The question of whether those ancestors were pure herbivores or carnivores remains unanswered. Earlier studies indicate that early man did not scavenge for meat until 2.5 million years ago and did not begin hunting for game until about 500,000 years ago.