Early hominin ate “seafood”, possible reason for the expansion of the brain

Recent archaeological find in Koobi Fora, Kenya suggests that our early ancestors might have dined on “seafood” to compensate for the energy needed for the expansion of the brain. The excavated site dates 1.95 million years ago, which predates Homo erectus, reveals distinct faunal remains (some with evidence of butchery) and Oldowan artifacts. Detailed in latest PNAS edition, archaeologist David Braun and his team found an assemblage of bones from terrestrial and aquatic animals such as fishes, turtles and even crocodiles along with stone fragments (Oldowan tools) that are thought to be used to cut these animals with.

Photograph and scanning electron microscope image of a reptile bone scored by cuts. Image from PNAS.

“These aquatic foods are really important sources of the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and docosahexaenoic acid that are so critical to human brain growth,” said co-author and paleoanthropologist Dr. Richmond. “Finding these foods in the diets of our early ancestors suggests they may have helped to lift constraints on brain size and fuel the evolution of a larger brain.”

Braun posits that if these early hominins indeed ate these terrestrial and aquatic animals (fishes, turtles and crocodiles), then they would have ingested enough calories and fatty acids needed for the expansion of the brain without having to scavenge for animal remains. Braun thinks that these small-bodied hominins would have avoided the dangerous risk of confronting with larger scavengers.

Read more:

Crocs and fish key to human evolution on PhysOrg.

Did Dining on Seafood Help Early Humans Grow These Big Brains? on Discover.

Fossils Suggest Menu That Made Humans Possible on Wired.

Early hominin diet included diverse terrestrial and aquatic animals 1.95 Ma in East Turkana, Kenya (Braun et al., 2010) on PNAS.

Originally posted on The Prancing Papio.

4 thoughts on “Early hominin ate “seafood”, possible reason for the expansion of the brain

  1. And there is a polymorphism that relates IQ and breastfeeding, in a fatty acid metabolizing gene. Maybe this gene was also part of the evolution, giving an advantage to diets rich in the right types of fats to support brain growth (rs174575) in the FADS2 gene.

  2. you will find human ancestral groups (or if you so want ‘species’) associate with and radiate from a river valley/watershed , eg. makondo, rift) allways. there has never been a trace of doubt that even very early hominids associated with aquatic fauna afaik. i think we still digest fish and moluscs easier then fresh meat.

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