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Until 2010, all studies seemed to point out thatarchaic hominins and the first representatives of the genusHomo they had a diet based onhard food, which could include nuts, seeds or other fruits with a more or less rigid shell.
But more recent research began to cast doubt on this hypothesis.
"In fact, the latest studies that had been carried out by analyzing the trace left by food on the teeth and studies carried out with isotopes showed the opposite," he says.Jordi Marcé-Nogué, Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Rovira i Virgili University (URV) and associate researcher at the Miquel Crusafont Catalan Institute of Paleontology (ICP).
To close the debate, Marcé-Nogué's team, during his time as a researcher at the University of Hamburg (Germany), approached the subject from a completely different perspective.
They decided to study thejaw morphologyand the biomechanics of its chewing apparatus.
Study: what did the first hominids eat?
To do so, the group compared morphometric and biomechanical geometry data from finite element analysis of30 current primate species and eight fossil hominin species (Australopithecus afarensis, A. africanus, A. sediba, Paranthropus robustus YP. boisei, Homo rudolfensis YHomo erectus).
"The name of these techniques is convoluted, but they basically consist of studying the difference between the geometry and the biomechanical behavior of different jaws using computational methods that allow us to analyze a large amount of data", says the researcher.
The result, published in the magazineScientific Reports, supports the hypothesis that hominins likeaustralopithecines, theparanthropes orHomo erectus -The first representative of the genusHomo- they mostly consumed soft foods, such as fruits with soft covers (fruits and berries).
"These results are consistent with the latest studies that have been done using other approaches and that represented a radical change in the knowledge we had of our ancestors," says the expert.
What your diet teaches us
Diet is one of the key elements in studying behavioral and ecological differences in current and extinct primates.
The techniques ofmorphometric geometry and finite element analysis have never before been applied in this field in combination with machine learning techniques (machine learning).
"The fact that we have so much data on the biomechanical behavior of current primates has allowed us to use them to train the computer with sufficient accuracy and then to make predictions reliably using machine learning techniques", explains the researcher.
Currently, the team that Marcé-Nogué works with is the only one that is currently using the combination of theseinnovative techniques to study the fossil record.
Marcé-Nogué, J, Püschel, T.A., Daasch, A., Kaiser, T.M. "Broad-scale morpho-functional traits of the mandible suggest no hard food adaptation in the hominin lineage"Scientific Reports. DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-020-63739-5.
Source: ICP Via: Sync