Tuesday, December 18, 2012

News Flash: Scientists Survive on Poppycock

Dec. 14, 2012

“Scientists 'Surprised' to Discover Very Early Ancestors Survived On Tropical Plants, New Study Suggests”

“Researchers involved in a new study led by Oxford University have found that between three million and 3.5 million years ago, the diet of our very early ancestors in central Africa is likely to have consisted mainly of tropical grasses and sedges. The findings are published in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

Frankly, I was skeptical. I just couldn’t imagine early humans grazing on grasses. Nor could I imagine that our ancestors would have given up meat so quickly after learning how to be upright and hunt with weapons. I could see them sharing their diet with vegetable matter, but grasses seemed unlikely.

The study authors, I guess, also thought that eating grasses directly was unlikely, for the article continued:

“The authors argue that it is unlikely that the hominins would have eaten the leaves of the tropical grasses as they would have been too abrasive and tough to break down and digest. Instead, they suggest that these early hominins may have relied on the roots, corms and bulbs at the base of the plant.”

That mollified me some but I was still skeptical. Which corms and roots and bulbs are we talking about? From grasses and sedges? Really?

Then comes the clinker:

“Professor Lee-Thorp said: ‘Based on our carbon isotope data, we can't exclude the possibility that the hominins' diets may have included animals that in turn ate the tropical grasses. But as neither humans nor other primates have diets rich in animal food, and of course the hominins are not equipped as carnivores are with sharp teeth, we can assume that they ate the tropical grasses and the sedges directly.’”

Did they really say that? One has to presume they did. Humans don’t have a diet rich in animal food? What supermarket do the authors shop in?

Needless-to-say, the authors are basing their argument on the commonly held, if probably erroneous, assumption that because “hominins are not equipped as carnivores are with sharp teeth,” they couldn’t bring down game. What the hell were they doing with the rocks and spears they were carrying around? The more reasonable assumption is that, indeed, our early ancestors were eating game, not grasses.

Think for a minute, Professor Lee-Thorpe, what’s the likelihood of people surviving out on the treeless plains eating only roots and corms with no means of protection and no ability to run away and nothing to climb? Zilch. The only reason humans could survive out on the plains was that they were top predators. They were killers.

You’re misinterpreting your data, sir.

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