1. A new study of fossil evidence from Central Africa suggests that our early ancestors had a taste for grass 3.5 million years ago, and were equipped to consume it. Though they walked upright, these early hominins — Australopithecus bahrelghazali — were hairier and smaller than modern humans, looked more like apes, and possessed “big, impressive teeth” that could endure a diet that included grass. In the new study, published in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers identified grass’ molecular signature in the teeth of three specimens.

    Researchers say that this evolutionary move from fruits and leaves to tropical grasses represents a “major shift” in early human eating-habits. “No African great apes, including chimpanzees, eat this type of food despite the fact it grows in abundance in tropical and subtropical regions,” co-author Julia Lee-Thorp said in a press release. Grazing on grass (and the roots and bulbs at the base of plants) allowed early humans to emerge from our ancestral forests, colonize new terrain including treeless grasslands, and, in theory, adopt a broader diet — including, eventually, protein-rich animal meat.

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