Friday, December 16, 2011

Why Did Early Hominids Evolve? No More Elephants!

I know!  Elephants?  What do elephants have to do  with early evolution?  According to PloS One  
It seems that  one of the major pushes along the "big brain" highway was the disappearance of of  a major food item 400k years ago.  (yep, I did say 400k, seems this little bump pushed the appearance of early hominids back a lot further than was expected!)  That food item was the elephant which in some cases may have been responsible for upwards of 60% all animal derived protein / fat and not only that, but the elephant had just the right mix of fat to protein to sustain a healthy diet.

Of course the elephant was slow and big, which for homo - erectus was perfect, plus the fact that it would sustain a larger population for far longer.  But by 400k years ago, the boogers had pretty much run the elephant to ground.  

Now this of and by itself would not prove much of anything but for a tooth.  A 400,000 year old MODERN tooth no less discovered recently in  Israel's Qesem cave.   It seems that with ample food supplies there was no pressure for Homo-E to evolve.  But with the disappearance of large slow moving food source Homo-erectus and for that matter any hominid would have to adapt or perish.

As the IO9 article puts it:
  • These later, more modern hominids might have evolved from or simply replaced Homo erectus, but either way, the loss of elephants is key.

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