August 24, 2011

First Ancestor Of Modern Humans Developed The Art Of Cooking


According to a new study, the first ancestor of modern humans to master the art of cooking was homo erectus.

Harvard University researchers said that the ability to cook and process food allowed homo erectus, the Neanderthals and homo sapiens to make huge evolutionary leaps that differentiated them from chimpanzees and other primates.

The scientists back-up claims by previous studies that suggest homo erectus may have known how to cook.  They based their results on an analysis of DNA, molar size and body mass among non-human primates, modern humans, and 14 extinct hominids.

If homo erectus prepared food with tools and fire then it would pack on more calories and mean less time spent foraging and eating.

Animals with larger body sizes among primates grew bigger molars and spent more time eating.

"Homo erectus and homo neanderthalensis spent 6.1percent and 7 percent, respectively, of their active day feeding," said the Harvard study. The study said modern humans spend 4.7 percent of their days eat.

"Human feeding time and molar size are truly exceptional compared with other primates, and their oddity began around the start of the Pleistocene," said the study, referring to the epoch that began about 2.5 million years ago and ended 11,700 years ago.

The study said that cooking may actually have originated with other species that also lived in Africa and came just before homo erectus, including homo habilis and homo rudolfensis.

The researchers said that the tools and behaviors necessary to support a cooking culture "related to feeding and now necessary for long-term survival of modern humans evolved by the time of homo erectus and before our lineage left Africa."

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).


On the Net: