Neanderthals’ diets are highly debated: they are traditionally considered carnivores and hunters of large mammals, but this hypothesis has recently been challenged by numerous pieces of evidence of plant consumption. Ancient diets are often reconstructed using nitrogen isotope ratios, a tracer of the trophic level, the position an organism occupies in a food chain. Neanderthals are apparently occupying a high position in terrestrial food chains, exhibiting slightly higher ratios than carnivores like hyenas, wolves or foxes found at the same sites. It has been suggested that these slightly higher values were due to the consumption of mammoth or putrid meat. And we also know some examples of cannibalism for different Neanderthal sites. Paleolithic modern humans, who arrived in France shortly after the Neanderthals had disappeared, exhibit even higher nitrogen isotope ratios than Neanderthals. This is classically interpreted as the signature of freshwater fish consumption. Fishing is supposed to be a typical modern human activity, but again, a debate exists whether or not Neanderthals were eating aquatic resources. When Klervia Jaouen, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and first author of the study, and collaborators discovered high nitrogen isotope ratios in the collagen of two Neanderthals falling in the range of modern humans, they wondered whether this could a signature of regular fish consumption. However, the measurements were performed on a tooth root, which recorded the diet between four to eight years of the individual’s life, and on a bone of a one-year-old baby. In other words, many explanations e.
This is called dental plaque. Theorists Books Fossils Evolutionary anthropology. Journal of Biological Research-Thessaloniki. Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology. .
Based on the isotope composition in the collagen from the prehistoric humans’ bones, they were able to show that, while the Neanderthals’ diet consisted primarily of large plant eaters such at mammoths and rhinoceroses, it also included vegetarian food. The associated studies were recently published in the scientific journals Journal of Human Evolution and Quaternary International. The paleo-diet is one of the new trends among nutrition-conscious people — but what exactly did the meal plan of our extinct ancestors include? The immediate vicinity also revealed the bones of several Neanderthals. Based on isotope studies of the collagen in the bones, the researchers were able to demonstrate that the Neanderthals’ diet differed markedly from that of other predatory animals. Collagen is an essential organic component of the connective tissue in bones, teeth, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and the skin. But our extinct relatives did not solely thrive on meat: Studies of the isotope composition of individual amino acids in the collagen offer proof that plant matter constituted approximately 20 percent of their diet. In scientific circles, this evolution-biologically relevant question has been discussed intensively for decades, albeit without leading to any tangible results.