Ancient "Lucy" ate a different diet than previously believed

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Washington, October 23 (ANI): A University of Arkansas researcher and his colleagues have said that a research examining microscopic marks on the teeth of the "Lucy" species suggests that the ancient hominid ate a different diet than previously believed.

"The Lucy species is among the first hominids to show thickened enamel and flattened teeth," an indication that hard, or abrasive foods such as nuts, seeds and tubers, might be on the menu, according to Peter Ungar, professor of anthropology, University of Arkansas.

However, the microwear texture analysis indicates that tough objects, such as grass and leaves, dominated Lucy's diet.

"This challenges long-held assumptions and leads us to questions that must be addressed using other techniques," Ungar said.

Researchers thought that with the development of thick enamel, robust skulls and large chewing muscles, these species had evolved to eat hard, brittle foods. owever, the microwear texture analysis shows that these individuals were not eating such foods toward the end of their lives.

The researchers used a combination of a scanning confocal microscope, and scale-sensitive fractal analysis to create a microwear texture analysis of the molars from 19 specimens of A. afarensis, the Lucy species, which lived between 3.9 and 2.9 million years ago, and three specimens from A. anamensis, which lived between 4.1 and 3.9 million years ago.

They looked at complexity and directionality of wear textures in the teeth they examined. Since food interacts with teeth, it leaves behind telltale signs that can be measured.

Hard, brittle foods like nuts and seeds tend to lead to more complex tooth profiles, while tough foods like leaves generally lead to more parallel scratches, which corresponds with directionality.

"The long-held assumption was that with the development of thick enamel, robust skulls and larger chewing muscles marked the beginning of a shift towards hard, brittle foods, such as nuts, seeds and tubers," Ungar said.

"The Lucy species and the species that came before it did not show the predicted trajectory," he added. (ANI)

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