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Posts Tagged ‘wild grass’

via New World Cereal-Maze

Here is a repost from 2009 about the wild grass progenitor of Maze, teosinte.

i thought it would be timely since I posted an update to this grain just recently.

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Skull of ‘Nutcracker Man’ or Paranthropus boisei. The image is of Olduvai Hominid 5 (OH 5), the most famous of the early human fossils, which was found at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. (Credit: Courtesy of Donald C Johanson)

Topic: Evidence ancient man ate Tiger Nuts
An Oxford University study has concluded that our ancient ancestors who lived in East Africa between 2.4 million-1.4 million years ago survived mainly on a diet of tiger nuts. Tiger nuts are edible grass bulbs still eaten in parts of the world today. The study published in the journal, PLOS ONE, also suggests that these early hominins may have sought additional nourishment from fruits and invertebrates, like worms and grasshoppers.

Study author Dr Gabriele Macho examined the diet of Paranthropus boisei, nicknamed “Nutcracker Man” because of his big flat molar teeth and powerful jaws, through studying modern-day baboons in Kenya. Her findings help to explain a puzzle that has vexed archaeologists for 50 years.

Scholars have debated why this early human relative had such strong jaws, indicating a diet of hard foods like nuts, yet their teeth seemed to be made for consuming soft foods. Damage to the tooth enamel also indicated they had come into contact with an abrasive substance. Previous research using stable isotope analyses suggests the diet of these homimins was largely composed of C4 plants like grasses and sedges. However, a debate has raged over whether such high-fibre foods could ever be of sufficiently high quality for a large-brained, medium-sized hominin.

Dr Macho’s study finds that baboons today eat large quantities of C4 tiger nuts, and this food would have contained sufficiently high amounts of minerals, vitamins, and the fatty acids that would have been particularly important for the hominin brain. Her finding is grounded in existing data that details the diet of year-old baboons in Amboseli National Park in Kenya — a similar environment to that once inhabited by Paranthropus boisei. Dr Macho’s study is based on the assumption that baboons intuitively select food according to their needs. She concludes that the nutritional demands of a hominin would have been quite similar.

Dr Macho modified the findings of the previous study on baboons by Stuart Altmann (1998) on how long it took the year-old baboons to dig up tiger nuts and feed on various C4 sources. She calculated the likely time taken by hominins, suggesting that it would be at least twice that of the yearling baboons once their superior manual dexterity was taken into account. Dr Macho also factored in the likely calorie intake that would be needed by a big-brained human relative.

Tiger nuts, which are rich in starches, are highly abrasive in an unheated state. Dr Macho suggests that hominins’ teeth suffered abrasion and wear and tear due to these starches. The study finds that baboons’ teeth have similar marks giving clues about their pattern of consumption.

In order to digest the tiger nuts and allow the enzymes in the saliva to break down the starches, the hominins would need to chew the tiger nuts for a long time. All this chewing put considerable strain on the jaws and teeth, which explains why “Nutcracker Man” had such a distinctive cranial anatomy.

The Oxford study calculates a hominin could extract sufficient nutrients from a tiger nut- based diet, i.e. around 10,000 kilojoules or 2,000 calories a day — or 80% of their required daily calorie intake, in two and half to three hours. This fits comfortably within the foraging time of five to six hours per day typical for a large-bodied primate.

Dr Macho, from the School of Archaeology at Oxford University, said: ‘I believe that the theory — that “Nutcracker Man” lived on large amounts of tiger nuts- helps settle the debate about what our early human ancestor ate. On the basis of recent isotope results, these hominins appear to have survived on a diet of C4 foods, which suggests grasses and sedges. Yet these are not high quality foods. What this research tells us is that hominins were selective about the part of the grass that they ate, choosing the grass bulbs at the base of the grass blade as the mainstay of their diet.

‘Tiger nuts, still sold in health food shops as well as being widely used for grinding down and baking in many countries, would be relatively easy to find. They also provided a good source of nourishment for a medium-sized hominin with a large brain. This is why these hominins were able to survive for around one million years because they could successfully forage — even through periods of climatic change.’

Original article:
sciencedaily

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Topic: Ancient man ate wild grasses

I am behind schedule so part 2 of the Ft Clatsop post will be on next Monday or Wednesday: thanks for your support and paitence!

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WASHINGTON – Nutcracker Man didn’t eat nuts after all. After a half-century of referring to an ancient pre-human as “Nutcracker Man” because of his large teeth and powerful jaw, scientists now conclude that he actually chewed grasses instead.

The study “reminds us that in paleontology, things are not always as they seem,” commented Peter S. Ungar, chairman of anthropology at the University of Arkansas.

The new report, by Thure E. Cerling of the University of Utah and colleagues, is published in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cerling’s team analyzed the carbon in the enamel of 24 teeth from 22 individuals who lived in East Africa between 1.4 million and 1.9 million years ago. One type of carbon is produced from tree leaves, nuts and fruit, another from grasses and grasslike plants called sedges.

It turns out that the early human known as Paranthropus boisei did not eat nuts but dined more heavily on grasses than any other human ancestor or human relative studied to date. Only an extinct species of grass-eating baboon ate more, they said.

“That was not at all what we were expecting,” Cerling said in a telephone interview. Scientists will need to rethink the ways our ancient relatives were using resources, he said.

Added co-author Matt Sponheimer of the University of Colorado: “Frankly, we didn’t expect to find the primate equivalent of a cow dangling from a remote twig of our family tree.”

The skull of Paranthropus was discovered by Mary and Louis Leakey in 1959 at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, and helped put the Leakeys on the world stage. Their daughter-in-law, Maeve Leakey, is a co-author of the paper.

Cerling said much of the previous work on Nutcracker Man was based on the size, shape and wear of the teeth. His team analyzed bits of tooth removed with a drill and the results were completely different, Cerling said.

“It stands to reason that other conclusions about other species also will require revisions,” he said.

Ungar, who was not part of the research team, suggested in 2007 the possibility that Nutcracker Man human ate grasses, based on tooth wear.

“The big, flat molars, heavily buttressed skull, and large, powerful chewing muscles of Paranthropus boisei scream `nut cracker,’ and that is exactly what this species has been called for more than half a century,” he said via email. “But science demands that our interpretations be tested.”

With carbon analysis, the researchers take us “one step closer to understanding the diets of these fascinating hominins,” Ungar said.

“This is a very important paper … because people have traditionally felt that the teeth of boisei were incapable of processing foods like grasses,” added biology professor Mark Teaford of Johns Hopkins University.

Cerling said it took some convincing to get the tooth samples for drilling from the National Museum of Kenya. “The sound of the drill may make a lot of paleontologists and museum staff cringe,” co-author Kevin Uno, a doctoral student at Utah, said in a statement. But “it provides new information that we can’t get at any other way.”

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the University of Colorado.

Original article:

news.yahoo.com

By Randolph Schmid, Ap Science Writer Mon May 2, 2011

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