Human Diet: Its Origin and Evolution
Peter S. Ungar
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Diet is key to understanding the past, present, and future of our species. Much of human evolutionary success can be attributed to our ability to consume a wide range of foods. On the other hand, recent changes in the types of foods we eat may lie at the root of many of the health problems we face today. To deal with these problems, we must understand the evolution of the human diet.
Studies of traditional peoples, non-human primates, human fossil and archaeological remains, nutritional chemistry, and evolutionary medicine, to name just a few, all contribute to our understanding of the evolution of the human diet. Still, as analyses become more specialized, researchers become more narrowly focused and isolated. This volume attempts to bring together authors schooled in a variety of academic disciplines so that we might begin to build a more cohesive view of the evolution of the human diet. The book demonstrates how past diets are reconstructed using both direct analogies with living traditional peoples and non-human primates, and studies of the bones and teeth of fossils. An understanding of our ancestral diets reveals how health relates to nutrition, and conclusions can be drawn as to how we may alter our current diets to further our health.
processing (Aiello and Wheeler, 1995; Suwa et al., 1996), implying either a narrower range of foods exploited or increased investment in preconsumption processing. Tuber cooking is a good example of the latter strategy. 60 Human Diet SUMMARY The appearance of early African H. erectus marks an important evolutionary threshold—in many respects, the first definitive step away from ancestral hominoid patterns of life history and ecology. Though conventional wisdom identifies meat-eating as the
Dietary Quality 65 and Van Soest, 1985; Parra, 1979). Therefore, compared to the monkeys, the chimpanzee diet was relatively low-fiber (Conklin-Brittain et al., 1998), possibly already starting to circumvent the body size constraints discussed by Milton (1999b). Compared to modern humans, however, the chimpanzee diet was still extremely high in fiber (discussed later in this chapter). For the purpose of comparing the quality of different plant parts contributing to the chimpanzee diet, simple
Enumerated by Site Genera Site 88 Sungai Wain Ndoki Wamba Gunung Palung Mahale Kahuzi Mentoko Tanjung Puting Gombe Mondika Lomako Lilungu Karisoke Bai Hokou Lope Species Families Total Identified Total Identified 54 47 38 53 64 38 34 54 51 38 28 44 27 42 36 124 120 98 121 156 83 63 98 110 78 60 100 53 86 75 111 114 98 121 153 82 59 96 110 78 59 98 53 83 73 201 173 138 183 196 116 102 154 145 107 75 116 71 105 89 125 154 129 80 176 106 63 120 130 100 61 100 63 71 79 Genera Species
these few forays into comparative plant use is that the great apes are fundamentally the same in selection of angiosperm families, but that G. gorilla is specially adapted for a new feeding niche in Africa. Special adaptation of G. gorilla is not a surprise given all that is known of dietary capacities of this huge ape. Clusters of Sites and the Geography of Food Lists A conclusion from the previous results may be that the great apes feed more or less on what is available to them rather than
(leopard), and Crocuta all reflect carbon of mainly C3 132 Human Diet Figure 9.3 Distribution of δ13C values shown as means and standard deviations for the faunal assemblages in Swartkrans Members 1 and 2, respectively. Values for Homo and Paranthropus are shown in Member 1, and for Paranthropus in Member 2. Data are from Lee-Thorp et al (1994), and Lee-Thorp et al. (2000). origin but with some C4 input. Leopard diets shifted to concentrate more on C4 prey in Member 2 (not shown), lending