Sunday, July 17, 2011

Geographic variation in Neanderthal diets

Zaatari et al. report (in an early view article in the Journal of Human Evolution) on the diets of a large sample of Neanderthals from across their geographic range, inferred using molar microwear texture analysis.  Results support previous studies indicating Neanderthals ate lots of meat...but the analysis revealed significant variability in the amount of plant foods incorporated in the diet.  I find this interesting for several reasons, including the current "Paleo Diet" craze I have been hearing about lately.  Even Neanderthals, a temporally and geographically restricted group, had significant variability in their diet....imagine the amount of variability in the much more ecologically diverse groups of modern human foragers the paleo-diet folks are trying to mimic. Which paleodiets should I try to follow?  The highly carnivorous ones? or the mostly vegetarian ones?

El Zaatari S, Grine FE, Ungar PS, and Hublin J-J. Ecogeographic variation in Neandertal dietary habits: Evidence from occlusal molar microwear texture analysis. Journal of Human Evolution. In Press, Corrected Proof. Available from:

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