Early Pleistocene faunivorous hominins were not kleptoparasitic, and this impacted the evolution of human anatomy and socio‑ecology

Abstract

Humans are unique in their diet, physiology and socio‑reproductive behavior compared to other primates. They are also unique in the ubiquitous adaptation to all biomes and habitats. From an evolutionary perspective, these trends seem to have started about two million years ago, coinciding with the emergence of encephalization, the reduction of the dental apparatus, the adoption of a fully terrestrial lifestyle, resulting in the emergence of the modern anatomical bauplan, the focalization of certain activities in the landscape, the use of stone tools, and the exit from Africa. It is in this period that clear taphonomic evidence of a switch in diet with respect to Pliocene hominins occurred, with the adoption of carnivory. Until now, the degree of carnivorism in early humans remained controversial. A persistent hypothesis is that hominins acquired meat irregularly (potentially as fallback food) and opportunistically through klepto‑foraging. Here, we test this hypothesis and show, in contrast, that the butchery practices of early Pleistocene hominins (unveiled through systematic study of the patterning and intensity of cut marks on their prey) could not have resulted from having frequent secondary access to carcasses. We provide evidence of hominin primary access to animal resources and emphasize the role that meat played in their diets, their ecology and their anatomical evolution, ultimately resulting in the ecologically unrestricted terrestrial adaptation of our species. This has major implications to the evolution of human physiology and potentially for the evolution of the human brain.

Publication
Nature
Vivek Maskara
Vivek Maskara
GRA at The Luminosity Lab, ASU | Ex Senior Software Engineer, Zeta | Volunteer, Wikimedia Foundation

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