Date:

Researchers Use Fossilised Teeth to Reveal Dietary Shifts in Ancient Herbivores and Hominins

A new study documents dietary shifts in herbivores that lived between 1-3 million years ago in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley.

The research team, led by Enquye Negash, a postdoctoral researcher in the George Washington University Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology, examined stable isotopes in the fossilised teeth of herbivores such as antelopes and pigs and found a shift away from C3-derived foods, characteristic of woody vegetation, to C4-derived foods, representative of grasses and sedges.

- Advertisement -

The shift happened at two distinct time periods, approximately 2.7 million years ago and 2 million years ago, when the environment of the Lower Omo Valley was transitioning to open savanna.

The study, “Dietary trends in herbivores from the Shungura Formation, southwestern Ethiopia,” served as a comparative framework to an associated hominin diet study, also published this week, of which Negash was a co-author.

The associated study, “Isotopic evidence for the timing of the dietary shift towards C4 foods in eastern African Paranthropus,” examined carbon isotope data from the fossilised tooth enamel of Paranthropus boisei, a nonancestral hominin relative.

Led by Jonathan Wynn, now a program director in the National Science Foundation’s division of Earth sciences, the research team behind that paper found a profound shift toward the consumption of C4-derived foods approximately 2.37 million years ago, which preceded a morphological shift of P. boisei’s skull and jaw.

- Advertisement -

Given the direct evidence provided by the abundant, well-dated fossilised teeth and their chemical composition, the new findings suggest behavioral dietary changes can precede apparent morphological adaptations to new foods.

Enquye Negash, one of the project researchers said: “Major dietary shifts that are observed in our study reflect the response of the herbivores to major ecological and environmental changes during this time. This allowed us to better understand the environmental context of similar dietary changes in hominins.”

GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

Header Image Credit : Paul Hudson

 

- Advertisement -
spot_img
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 8,000 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
spot_img

Mobile Application

spot_img

Related Articles

Archaeologists uncover votive altar on Mount Arriaundi

Archaeologists from Aranzadi have uncovered a votive altar while excavating the medieval monastery of Doneztebe on Mount Arriaundi, Spain.

Byzantine plaque carved from bone found in Suzdal

Archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology RAS have discovered a Byzantine plaque, intricately carved from animal bone, within the historic walls of Suzdal, Russia.

Coin hoard from time of the Gallus Revolt unearthed in Lod

Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and the Lod Municipality have unearthed a hoard of 94 coins in Lod from the time of the Gallus Revolt.

Rare religious treasures uncovered near Lake Tisza

Archaeologists from the National Archaeological Institute have uncovered a rare silver Eucharist set alongside a treasure hoard of silver coins.

Archaeologists may have discovered the lost city of Tu’am

Excavations in the Umm Al Quwain area of the UAE have revealed 6th century ruins that could be the lost city of Tu'am.

New findings in North America’s first city

Cahokia was the largest urban settlement of the Mississippian culture, a mound-building pre-Columbian civilisation that emerged in the Midwestern, Eastern, and South-eastern United States.

Bottled fruit cache discovered at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Archaeologists have discovered a cache of 35 glass bottles at Mount Vernon, the former residence and plantation of President George Washington.

Mysterious engraving might depict an Archaic temple on the Acropolis of Athens

A 2,000-year-old engraving on a marble outcrop near Vari, Attica, might point to an Archaic temple on the Acropolis of Athens.