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Neandertal vs. Human Diets

May 3, 2016

By using more sophisticated technology to deal with a harsh and unpredictable Ice Age climate, modern humans may have been more successful at finding food than Neandertals.

Transcript

Sireen El Zaatari PLOS ONE e0153277

Microwear on the surface of fossilized teeth reveals clues to ancient human and Neandertal diets. (Sireen El Zaatari/PLOS ONE e0153277)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Toothy clues to ancient food. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

During the last ice age, modern humans began to migrate from Africa into Eurasia. They  gradually displaced Neandertals, which had survived the harsh climate for hundreds of thousands of years. A study in PLOS ONE suggests that our ancestors’ ability to exploit a wider variety of foods – whatever the environmental conditions – likely gave the newcomers an advantage. University of Tübingen paleoanthropologist Sireen El Zaatari says patterns of wear in fossilized teeth revealed clues to the ancient hominins’ eating habits.

SIREEN EL ZAATARI (University of Tübingen, Germany):

Plants were available in different environments, but it seems modern humans made an effort to get to these foods whereas Neandertals did not bother.

HIRSHON:

Instead, they consumed meat unless plants were easy to find. She attributes the difference to ancient Homo sapiens’ relatively sophisticated use of tools. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

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