A large carnivore — most likely a hyena — ate an ancient human , years ago, according to the discovery of teeth marks on a thighbone found in a Moroccan cave. The fossilised femur provides the first definitive evidence that carnivores ate early humans in North Africa during the Middle Pleistocene era. Researchers found the adult-size bone in a vast cavity south west of Casablanca called the Thomas Quarry 1 Hominid Cave.
How our ancestors drilled rotten teeth
The cave is famous for its ancient human bones and stone tools believed to represent a population of Homo rhodesiensis, a type of early human. Other fossils found inside the cave include bones from extinct species of bear, wildebeest, panthers and a giant baboon. We suspected humans would be prey in the Middle Pleistocene era, but we have very little evidence. The big cats, like lions or tigers, will eat the flesh and chew the extremities of the bones.
The analysis, published in the latest edition of PLOS ONE , shows that much of the marrow remained intact, which suggested the hyena might have been interrupted. Fossilised human bones showing carnivore teeth marks have been found in South Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, Professor Hublin said. These include bones found in hyena dens. However, the bones found in those areas of the world were either much earlier, or much later — between 40, and 10, years ago, when carnivore hunting became widespread. They were better equipped to deal with carnivores.
They could keep themselves safe by using fire and had much better weapons that could kill at a distance.
Humans were quite capable of being able to evict carnivores and take carcasses from them , years ago, while carnivores were coming after humans and eating their leftovers, he continued. If you have inside knowledge of a topic in the news, contact the ABC. ABC teams share the story behind the story and insights into the making of digital, TV and radio content.
These ancient humans probably already knew how to hunt more agile and elusive game, says Steve Kuhn, an archaeologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. By Ann Finkbeiner Jun.
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By Jeffrey Mervis Jun. By Kai Kupferschmidt Jun. All rights Reserved. Early humans settled in this Sri Lankan cave 45, years ago. Got a tip? How to contact the news team. Science Insider.
Jason—a secretive group of Cold War science advisers—is fighting to survive in the 21st century By Ann Finkbeiner Jun. How do we know whether the individual in question is female or male? It turns out that question can also be answered chemically by testing one of the enamel-forming proteins. Teeth also offer tantalizing insights into behavior.
Krueger, for example, has examined the wear on Neanderthal teeth to understand how they used their mouths as an extra tool. Compared to modern humans, many hominins had toothier mouths. Homo erectus, which lived all over the world 1. But both still followed the evolutionary trend of generally decreasing tooth size: The size of our jaw and teeth have slowly been shrinking over millions of years. They were adaptations to changing environmental conditions that are well documented during the Plio-Pleistocene.
Thanks to the huge variations in teeth between modern Homo sapiens and all its ancestors, teeth are a wonderful tool for identifying species. But how do scientists know if a particularly large or small tooth should be classified as a different species, or is just an example of variation within a species?
That was certainly the question surrounding a single ,year-old molar discovered in It was the smallest molar ever found in Africa during the Middle Pleistocene, which increases the amount of variation among all samples for the region. As to which species it belonged to, that has yet to be determined.
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Think a basketball player versus a horse jockey! For example, a jawbone with teeth found on Gibraltar and attributed to a young Neanderthal child was given the age of three years at its death, and showed slightly more accelerated tooth eruption than in Homo sapiens. Other researchers have used similar methods to argue that development most similar to that of modern humans began following the emergence of Homo erectus.
While Erectus still had faster tooth development than our species, they were slower than the hominins that came before. Guatelli-Steinberg and her colleagues recently submitted a paper on the dental development of Homo naledi which seems to distinguish it from other early hominins, and she hopes their work will be just the beginning of studies into this newly discovered species.
Editor's Note, July 3, This post initially misstated that humans arrived in Asia 80 to million years ago; it was actually 80 to thousand years ago. Subscribe or Give a Gift. Sign up.
Nicolai Ovodov (Author of Animal Teeth and Human Tools)
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