Monday, November 13, 2006

Dietary Variation In Pananthropus

Isotopic Evidence for Dietary Variability in the Early Hominin Paranthropus robustus. 2006. M. Sponheimer et al. Science 314: 980 – 982.

Paranthropus in southern Africa 1 million years ago. Artwork by W. Voigt.

Abstract: Traditional methods of dietary reconstruction do not allow the investigation of dietary variability within the lifetimes of individual hominins. However, laser ablation stable isotope analysis reveals that the ∂13 C values of P. robustus individuals often changed seasonally and interannually.
These data suggest that Paranthropus was not a dietary specialist and that by about 1.8 million years ago, savanna-based foods such as grasses or sedges or animals eating these foods made up an important but highly variable part of its diet.

Paranthropus robustus skull from Swartkrans Cave, South Africa. Image courtesy D. DeRuiter, Texas A&M U.

Read the press release.