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They Were What They Ate: Study Reveals Pre-Human Relatives Ate Only Forest Foods

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Published on Jun 27, 2012

You are what you eat, and that seems to have been as true two million years ago, when our pre-human relatives were swinging through the trees and racing across the savannas of South Africa, as it is today.

A study published in today's issue of the journal Nature reveals that Australopithecus sediba, an ape-like creature with human features living in a region about 50 miles northwest of today's Johannesburg, exclusively consumed fruits, leaves and other forest-based foods, even though its habitat was near grassy savanna with its rich variety of savory sedges, tasty tubers and even juicy animals.

"This astonished us," explains Benjamin Passey, a Johns Hopkins University geochemist on the international team that conducted the study. "Most hominin species appear to have been pretty good at eating what was around them and available, but sediba seems to have been unusual in that, like present-day chimpanzees, it ignored available savanna foods."

These new findings add detail to the emerging picture of our various pre-human relatives, and why some thrived and continued to evolve, while others became extinct.

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