Scientists Discover Ancestors Ate Grass 3.5 Million Years Ago

When they grew tired of eating leaves and fruit, our ancestors tried grass

Fancy some grass for dinner? Why not? Our ancestors did 3.5 million years ago. This was before we began hunting, discovered how to make fire, and learned to cook meat — about 2.3 million years ago.

In four separate studies, scientists took a close look at carbon isotopes in the fossilized tooth enamel of our ancestors and baboons in Africa from four million to 10,000 years ago and found that they added grass and sedges, grass-like plants with triangular stems, to their diet of fruit and leaves, according to a news release by the University of Utah. 

Why should we care? Diet is a principle driving force in human evolution, says Matt Sponheimer, a University of Colorado, Boulder anthropologist, former University of Utah postdoctoral fellow, and lead author of the fourth study. He says changes in our ancestors’ diets are linked to larger brain size and the advent of upright walking, which lead to us, modern humans.

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Maybe now we’ll be more open to try new foods. Insects anyone?