A new look at the diets of ancient African hominids shows a “game changer” occurred about 3.5 million years ago when some members added grasses or sedges to their menus, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder.
High-tech tests on tooth enamel by researchers indicate that prior to about 4 million years ago, Africa’s hominids were eating essentially chimpanzee style, likely dining on fruits and some leaves, said CU-Boulder anthropology Professor Matt Sponheimer, lead study author. Despite the fact that grasses and sedges were readily available back then, the hominids seem to have ignored them for an extended period, he said.
“We don’t know exactly what happened,” said Sponheimer. “But we do know that after about 3.5 million years ago, some of these hominids started to eat things that they did not eat before, and it is quite possible that these changes in diet were an important step in becoming human.”