Public Release:  Oldest evidence of regular meat consumption by early humans found

1.5-million-year-old skull fragment found in Tanzania shows signs of anemia, suggesting regular meat consumption in early hominids

PLOS

IMAGE

IMAGE: A fragment of a child's skull discovered at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, shows the oldest known evidence of anemia caused by a nutritional deficiency. view more

Credit: Citation: Dominguez-Rodrigo M, Pickering TR, Diez-Martin F, Mabulla A, Musiba C, et al. (2012) Earliest Porotic Hyperostosis on a 1.5-Million-Year-Old Hominin, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. PLoS ONE 7(10): e46414. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046414...

A fragment of a child's skull discovered at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania shows the oldest known evidence of anemia caused by a nutritional deficiency, reports a new paper published Oct. 3 in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

The discovery, made by a global team of researchers led by Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo from Complutense University, Madrid, suggests that early human ancestors began eating meat much earlier in history than previously believed. The skull fragment identified is thought to belong to a child somewhat younger than two and shows bone lesions that commonly result from a lack of B-vitamins in the diet.

Previous reports show that early hominids ate meat, but whether it was a regular part of their diet or only consumed sporadically was not certain. The authors suggest that the bone lesions present in this skull fragment provide support for the idea that meat-eating was common enough that not consuming it could lead to anemia.

Nutritional deficiencies such as anemia are most common at weaning, when children's diets change drastically. The authors suggest that the child may have died at a period when he or she was starting to eat solid foods lacking meat. Alternatively, if the child still depended on the mother's milk, the mother may have been nutritionally deficient for lack of meat.

Both cases imply that "early humans were hunters, and had a physiology adapted to regular meat consumption at least 1.5 million years ago", say the authors.

###

Citation: Dominguez-Rodrigo M, Pickering TR, Diez-Martin F, Mabulla A, Musiba C, et al. (2012) Earliest Porotic Hyperostosis on a 1.5-Million-Year-Old Hominin, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. PLoS ONE 7(10): e46414. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046414

Financial Disclosure: Funding provided by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation through the project I+D HAR2010-18952-C02-01 and from the Ministry of Culture through the Archaeological Projects Abroad program. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interest Statement: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

PLEASE LINK TO THE SCIENTIFIC ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT (URL goes live after the embargo ends):

http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0046414

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.