Human Evolution

, Volume 15, Issue 3–4, pp 175–186 | Cite as

Hominid lifestyle and diet reconsidered: paleo-environmental and comparative data

  • M. Verhaegen
  • P. -F. Puech


It is traditionally believed that human ancestors evolved in a warm and dry environment. The available evidence, however, favours the vision that it happened in a warm and wet environment.

The paleo-environmental data suggest that the early australopithecinesAustralopithecus anamensis, afarensis andafricanus lived in warm, moist, and wooded landscapes such as gallery forests. In the Pleistocene, the robust australopithecinesA. robustus andboisei seem to have dwelt in more open, possibly cooler and generally dryer places, in the vicinity of shallow and relatively stagnant waters of lakesides, lagoons, marshes and riverbanks. Dental and microwear studies suggest that the australopithecines, more than Western lowland gorillas, regularly fed on aquatic herbaceous vegetation (AHV).

Homo fossils, on the other hand, as suggested by the paleo-environmental data, are more frequently discovered near lakes, seas and rivers where molluscs were abundant. Shellfish could provide a dietary supplement for their omnivorous diet. This is how early hominines might have learned to use stones to crack bivalves. This subsequently could have led to stone tool use for other purposes.

Key words

Hominids australopithecines enamel thickness microwear bipedalism tool use palaeo-environment savanna theory 


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Copyright information

© International Institute for the Study of Man 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Verhaegen
    • 1
  • P. -F. Puech
    • 2
  1. 1.PutteBelgium
  2. 2.Musée de l’Homme à ParisNîmes cedex 4France

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