Diet in Early Hominin Species: A Paleoenvironmental Perspective

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Unraveling the dietary adaptations of early hominin species has become a very important question in the paleobio-logical studies of extinct taxa. For long, dentognathic morphological studies have been used to infer diet. More recently, new systematic and quantitative approaches have been developed to explore this issue. In the present study, a paleoenvironmental approach is used to infer possible dietary adaptation of two hominin genera: Paranthropus and Homo. Our results show that both genera likely depended on all types of available resources in diverse types of habitats but differed on how they exploited fallback resources. Homo exploited resources that were found in more wooded conditions, probably meat, and Paranthropus fell back on those common in open environments such as abrasive and hard diet. We think that there is no compelling evidence for the claim that Paranthropus was more specialized than Homo, at least as far as habitat preference is concerned. Studies that posited that the cause for the demise of Paranthropus was that it was too specialized and was not able to compete with the more versatile hominin species of Homo warrant revision as it is clear from our study and that of others that the two species fell back on different resources during scarcity, and thus were not in direct competition when resources were inadequate.