The Loh Down On Science

Family Tree

Pass the chips, please--the … wood chips?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, and the weird diet of our ancient ancestors.

Meet Amanda Henry, from Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Studying two early specimens of human evolution--a pair of Australopithecus sediba fossil skeletons unearthed in 2008--she wondered: What’d they eat?

So she checked their teeth for clues. Using laser technology, she “read” their enamel like a menu. Its chemical makeup reflects diet. She also assessed wear and tear – eating veggies versus meat tells a different story. But the smoking gun? Food stuck in their teeth. Thirty-eight fragments. Yikes!

Her conclusion? While they enjoyed fruit, they also loved … wood. That’s right: They devoured bark and snacked on sticks. And downed leaves by the dozen. Talk about a Family Tree!

This makes them unique. Other early humans had grass-based diets. Two million years ago, these two lived on grassy savannas but dined in nearby woodlands. Just like modern-day chimpanzees.

Hey, just like my family! They enjoy Ants on a Log … and hate flossing.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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