Human ancestors had taste for termites

12:18pm, January 20, 2001

Hungry human ancestors living in southern Africa at least a million years ago had a simple approach to putting more protein and fat in their diet: They used sharpened pieces of bone to tear apart termite mounds so that they could gulp down mouthfuls of the edible insects.

Both chimpanzees and modern human foragers enthusiastically eat termites and other bugs. For the first time, though, researchers have direct evidence for this behavior in our fossil ancestors. Ancient bone tools used for digging tubers out of the ground exhibit different marks than do those used to open termite mounds, according to a report that will appear in an upcoming Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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