The 3.0-3.5 million year old hominin called Australopithecus bahrelghazali made news today, when the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported solid evidence that this ape-like fellow from Koro-Toro Locality KT12 in the central African Djurab Desert of modern day Chad was a plant-eater.
Dinner at the Papyrus Swamp near Kabarole, Uganda AnSchieber
That's pretty weird: up to now, the earliest of our ancestors to have been determined plant-eaters are Australopithicus boisei, a species from the Rift Valley of east Africa, half a continent away and 1 million years or more later.
Premolar from Koro-Todo K12 Australopithecus bahrelghazali. Julia Lee-Thorp of Oxford University
The evidence is based on laser ablation of fossil teeth such as the premolar above and analysis of the material using the robust science of stable isotope analysis, which seems to suggest that the hominin nicknamed Abel may well have munched on some early ancestor of papyrus.
- Koro-Toro, including details of the new study
- Stable Isotope Analysis for Dummies
- What's a hominin?
Lee-Thorp JA, Likius A, Mackaye HT, Vignaud P, Sponheimer M, and Brunet M. 2012. Isotopic evidence for an early shift to C4 resources by Pliocene hominins in Chad. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.