Monday, August 15, 2005

Ascent of the tuber eaters   posted by Razib @ 8/15/2005 03:29:00 PM

Carl Zimmer has a good post up which comments on a new paper (full text) by Greg Laden and Richard Wrangham which elaborates the thesis that hominids survived on the savanna in large part by consumption of tubers. The funniest aspect, which Carl highlights, is the correlation between mole rat and homonid remains (mole rats consume tubers).1 Anyway, great paper, historical science at its best, marshalling multiple points of evidence which converge on one hypothesis. I am waiting for John Hawks' response because I would like him to comment on the feasibility of using carbon isotopes to infer the diet of hominids (he has expressed skepticism before).

1 - Please note that this complements, rather than supersedes, the man-the-meat-eater hypothesis. The authors posit that where chimpanzees rely on lower quality greens a pith, the "fall back" food of humans, tubers, was of higher quality. This is an important point because the large brain is a major sink of the calories we consume as human beings, and rich dense foods like tubers are a better source of energy.