Hominin, tubers and corms

Joe Shaw jshaw@opuntiads.com
Thu, 03 May 2007 18:41:34 PDT
Hi Gang, 

I enjoyed reading a recently published article that compared the isotopic signatures of African mole rat teeth to the teeth of ancient hominids including Australopithecus africanus (Lucy was apparently a member of Australopithecus afarensis).  

The goal was to see if evidence could be obtained to indicate what types of plants and plant parts were eaten by ancient hominin.  Though the species studied don't seem to be direct human ancestors, it was reasoned that information gained could be used to understand evolution of the human diet.  

The study was based upon the notion that you are what you eat, and that the ratios of radioactive isotopes differ among plants and plant organs (e.g., grasses vs. dicots) would be evident in fossil teeth.  Also there was the presumption that that different plant parts (e.g., leaves vs. tubers) affect teeth differently in terms of wear and tear.  

The authors concluded that the two hominin species studied had a diet rich in plant USOs (underground storage organs), including those of monocots.  Such organs would seem likely to be, in part, from genera that we prize today in our bulb gardens.   The various USOs would have included rhizomes, corms, bulbs, and tubers.  No doubt a tasty meal included a handful of corms and a bulb or two, topped off with a small lizard.  


What USOs are consumed today in Africa south of the equator?  






Conroe TX 



LINK:  (abstract) Isotopic ecology of African mole rats.evolution of human diet 


LINK:  info on Australopithecus africanus (Wikipedia) 


LINK:  possible phylogenetic tree of humans (including A. africanus and A. afarensis).   


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