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Open accessJournal ArticleDOI: 10.1002/AJPA.24247

The evolution of the human trophic level during the Pleistocene.

05 Mar 2021-American Journal of Physical Anthropology (John Wiley & Sons, Ltd)-Vol. 175, pp 27-56
Abstract: The human trophic level (HTL) during the Pleistocene and its degree of variability serve, explicitly or tacitly, as the basis of many explanations for human evolution, behavior, and culture. Previous attempts to reconstruct the HTL have relied heavily on an analogy with recent hunter-gatherer groups' diets. In addition to technological differences, recent findings of substantial ecological differences between the Pleistocene and the Anthropocene cast doubt regarding that analogy's validity. Surprisingly little systematic evolution-guided evidence served to reconstruct HTL. Here, we reconstruct the HTL during the Pleistocene by reviewing evidence for the impact of the HTL on the biological, ecological, and behavioral systems derived from various existing studies. We adapt a paleobiological and paleoecological approach, including evidence from human physiology and genetics, archaeology, paleontology, and zoology, and identified 25 sources of evidence in total. The evidence shows that the trophic level of the Homo lineage that most probably led to modern humans evolved from a low base to a high, carnivorous position during the Pleistocene, beginning with Homo habilis and peaking in Homo erectus. A reversal of that trend appears in the Upper Paleolithic, strengthening in the Mesolithic/Epipaleolithic and Neolithic, and culminating with the advent of agriculture. We conclude that it is possible to reach a credible reconstruction of the HTL without relying on a simple analogy with recent hunter-gatherers' diets. The memory of an adaptation to a trophic level that is embedded in modern humans' biology in the form of genetics, metabolism, and morphology is a fruitful line of investigation of past HTLs, whose potential we have only started to explore.

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Topics: Homo habilis (52%), Homo erectus (51%), Human evolution (51%) ... read more
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Open accessJournal ArticleDOI: 10.3390/QUAT4010007
19 Feb 2021-
Abstract: We hypothesize that megafauna extinctions throughout the Pleistocene, that led to a progressive decline in large prey availability, were a primary selecting agent in key evolutionary and cultural changes in human prehistory. The Pleistocene human past is characterized by a series of transformations that include the evolution of new physiological traits and the adoption, assimilation, and replacement of cultural and behavioral patterns. Some changes, such as brain expansion, use of fire, developments in stone-tool technologies, or the scale of resource intensification, were uncharacteristically progressive. We previously hypothesized that humans specialized in acquiring large prey because of their higher foraging efficiency, high biomass density, higher fat content, and the use of less complex tools for their acquisition. Here, we argue that the need to mitigate the additional energetic cost of acquiring progressively smaller prey may have been an ecological selecting agent in fundamental adaptive modes demonstrated in the Paleolithic archaeological record. We describe several potential associations between prey size decline and specific evolutionary and cultural changes that might have been driven by the need to adapt to increased energetic demands while hunting and processing smaller and smaller game.

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3 Citations


Open accessJournal ArticleDOI: 10.3390/APP11114860
25 May 2021-Applied Sciences
Abstract: In archaeology, palaeo-ecological studies are frequently used to support archaeological investigations, but linking and synthesizing datasets and concepts from ecology, ethnography, earth sciences, and archaeology has historically been rare. While advances in computational approaches and standards of data collection have enabled more collaborative approaches to understanding the past, these endeavors are only now beginning to pick up pace. Here, we propose a method to collect data of these assorted types, synthesize ecological and archaeological understanding, and move beyond subsistence-focused studies to those that incorporate multifaceted economies. We advocate for the use of ‘human-centered interaction networks’ as a tool to synthesize and better understand the role of culture, ecology, and environment in the long-term evolution of socio-ecological systems. We advance the study of human-centered interaction networks by presenting an archaeoecological (archaeological-ecological) perspective on the Neolithic transition of the Swifterbant culture in the northwestern Netherlands (approximately 4700–4000 BCE). We employed network science to better understand the relationships of animal and plant species to the uses that people made of them. The analysis of the Swifterbant system reveals a highly connected set of interactions among people, plants, and animals, as could be expected on the basis of the hypothesis of an ‘extended broad-spectrum economy’. Importantly, this broad spectrum extends beyond the subsistence sphere.

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3 Citations


Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1073/PNAS.2110764118
Miki Ben-Dor1, Raphael Sirtoli2, Ran Barkai1Institutions (2)
Abstract: Fellows Yates et al. (1) find amylase-binding bacteria in Late Pleistocene Neandertals and Homo sapiens dental calculus and project a starch-rich diet early and throughout human evolution and an essential role for starch in brain expansion. We recently argued for the need to use more paleobiological-type evidence to reconstruct past trophic levels (2), so welcome the evidence they present as a valuable contribution. While groundbreaking in many respects, we fail to see how Fellows Yates et al.’s results support some of their critical conclusions concerning the role of high starch consumption in Homo evolution. Our main contention is with the attempt to tie a “core” Late-Terminal … [↵][1]1To whom correspondence may be addressed. Email: bendor.michael{at}gmail.com. [1]: #xref-corresp-1-1

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Topics: Homo sapiens (50%)

1 Citations


Open accessJournal ArticleDOI: 10.1016/J.COEMR.2021.100297
Abstract: Over-consumption of calories rather than decreased expenditure is the most likely cause of the obesity epidemic. The reasons for this remain disputed with all the main macro-nutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrate) being implicated by different authors. Stimulated intake by declining dietary protein (protein leverage) may be important. The carbohydrate insulin model pins the blame for the epidemic on intake of refined carbohydrates. Yet others blame the high energy density of fat. In mice (and probably humans) a combination of around 50-60% fat, 10-30% carbohydrates and 10-20% protein (by energy) seems to maximally stimulate food intake and results in the greatest levels of adiposity. Humans find this combination most rewarding. Any diet which moves away from this combination are likely to promote weight loss. Why this combination stimulates intake so much is unclear because it does not correlate to any ancestral adult human diet, but it is similar to human milk.

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Topics: Calorie (52%), Appetite (52%), Weight loss (51%)

Open accessJournal ArticleDOI: 10.1097/MED.0000000000000660
Abstract: PURPOSE OF REVIEW To summarize emerging connections between sleep, ketogenic diets, and health. RECENT FINDINGS Mechanisms involved in the therapeutic benefits of ketogenic diets continue to be elucidated. Concurrently, the importance of sleep quality and circadian rhythms in their effects on metabolic and cognitive health is increasingly appreciated. Advances in the understanding of the actions of adenosine, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, and slow-wave sleep underscore connections between these areas of research. SUMMARY Many molecular pathways activated during ketogenic diets are known to modulate sleep-wake cycles, circadian rhythms, and sleep stages. Ketogenic diets often have beneficial effects on sleep at the same time as having beneficial effects on particular medical conditions. Enhancement of slow-wave sleep and rejuvenation of circadian programming may be synergistic with or causally involved in the benefits of ketogenic diets.

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Topics: Sleep Stages (67%), Slow-wave sleep (62%), Circadian rhythm (54%) ... read more
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347 results found


Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1086/417659
Abstract: Physiological and ecological constraints play key roles in the evolution of plant growth patterns, especially in relation to defenses against herbivores. Phenotypic and life history theories are unified within the growth-differentiation balance (GDB) framework, forming an integrated system of theories explaining and predicting patterns of plant defense and competitive interactions in ecological and evolutionary time. Plant activity at the cellular level can be classified as growth (cell division and enlargement) of differentiation (chemical and morphological changes leading to cell maturation and specialization). The GDB hypothesis of plant defense is premised upon a physiological trade-off between growth and differentiation processes. The trade-off between growth and defense exists because secondary metabolism and structural reinforcement are physiologically constrained in dividing and enlarging cells, and because they divert resources from the production of new leaf area. Hence the dilemma of plants: Th...

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3,584 Citations


Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1126/SCIENCE.1205106
James A. Estes1, John Terborgh2, Justin S. Brashares3, Mary E. Power3  +20 moreInstitutions (19)
15 Jul 2011-Science
Abstract: Until recently, large apex consumers were ubiquitous across the globe and had been for millions of years. The loss of these animals may be humankind's most pervasive influence on nature. Although such losses are widely viewed as an ethical and aesthetic problem, recent research reveals extensive cascading effects of their disappearance in marine, terrestrial, and freshwater ecosystems worldwide. This empirical work supports long-standing theory about the role of top-down forcing in ecosystems but also highlights the unanticipated impacts of trophic cascades on processes as diverse as the dynamics of disease, wildfire, carbon sequestration, invasive species, and biogeochemical cycles. These findings emphasize the urgent need for interdisciplinary research to forecast the effects of trophic downgrading on process, function, and resilience in global ecosystems.

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Topics: Freshwater ecosystem (55%), Trophic cascade (55%), Mesopredator release hypothesis (52%) ... read more

2,703 Citations


Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1152/PHYSREV.2001.81.3.1031
Abstract: Resistant starch (RS) is starch and products of its small intestinal digestion that enter the large bowel. It occurs for various reasons including chemical structure, cooking of food, chemical modification, and food mastication. Human colonic bacteria ferment RS and nonstarch polysaccharides (NSP; major components of dietary fiber) to short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), mainly acetate, propionate, and butyrate. SCFA stimulate colonic blood flow and fluid and electrolyte uptake. Butyrate is a preferred substrate for colonocytes and appears to promote a normal phenotype in these cells. Fermentation of some RS types favors butyrate production. Measurement of colonic fermentation in humans is difficult, and indirect measures (e.g., fecal samples) or animal models have been used. Of the latter, rodents appear to be of limited value, and pigs or dogs are preferable. RS is less effective than NSP in stool bulking, but epidemiological data suggest that it is more protective against colorectal cancer, possibly via butyrate. RS is a prebiotic, but knowledge of its other interactions with the microflora is limited. The contribution of RS to fermentation and colonic physiology seems to be greater than that of NSP. However, the lack of a generally accepted analytical procedure that accommodates the major influences on RS means this is yet to be established.

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Topics: Resistant starch (62%), Butyrate-Producing Bacteria (57%), Butyrate (56%) ... read more

2,453 Citations


Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1006/JHEV.2000.0435
Sally McBrearty1, Alison S. Brooks2Institutions (2)
Abstract: Proponents of the model known as the "human revolution" claim that modern human behaviors arose suddenly, and nearly simultaneously, throughout the Old World ca. 40-50 ka. This fundamental behavioral shift is purported to signal a cognitive advance, a possible reorganization of the brain, and the origin of language. Because the earliest modern human fossils, Homo sapiens sensu stricto, are found in Africa and the adjacent region of the Levant at >100 ka, the "human revolution" model creates a time lag between the appearance of anatomical modernity and perceived behavioral modernity, and creates the impression that the earliest modern Africans were behaviorally primitive. This view of events stems from a profound Eurocentric bias and a failure to appreciate the depth and breadth of the African archaeological record. In fact, many of the components of the "human revolution" claimed to appear at 40-50 ka are found in the African Middle Stone Age tens of thousands of years earlier. These features include blade and microlithic technology, bone tools, increased geographic range, specialized hunting, the use of aquatic resources, long distance trade, systematic processing and use of pigment, and art and decoration. These items do not occur suddenly together as predicted by the "human revolution" model, but at sites that are widely separated in space and time. This suggests a gradual assembling of the package of modern human behaviors in Africa, and its later export to other regions of the Old World. The African Middle and early Late Pleistocene hominid fossil record is fairly continuous and in it can be recognized a number of probably distinct species that provide plausible ancestors for H. sapiens. The appearance of Middle Stone Age technology and the first signs of modern behavior coincide with the appearance of fossils that have been attributed to H. helmei, suggesting the behavior of H. helmei is distinct from that of earlier hominid species and quite similar to that of modern people. If on anatomical and behavioral grounds H. helmei is sunk into H. sapiens, the origin of our species is linked with the appearance of Middle Stone Age technology at 250-300 ka.

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Topics: Behavioral modernity (60%), Later Stone Age (56%), Homo sapiens (56%) ... read more

2,048 Citations


Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1146/ANNUREV.ES.19.110188.001231
Abstract: The evolution of "niche breadth," or "niche width," was a more popular topic in the evolutionary ecological literature of the 1960s and 1970s than it has been recently (109, 118, 120, 134, 155, 156). This review summarizes current hypotheses on the evolution of specialization and generalization and suggests areas in which future research might be rewarding. The topic is so broad that every area of biology bears on it. We cannot hope to offer an exhaustive review of evidence and in particular have slighted much of the ecological literature to emphasize genetic and evolutionary perspectives. We limit our discussion almost entirely to animals. We adopt Hutchinson's (86) representation of a population's ecological niche as an n-dimensional hypervolume, the axes of which are environmental variables or resources. Along each of these, the population displays a wide or narrow tolerance or pattern of utilization, relative to other populations or species. Specialization and generalization must be defined with reference to particular axes (e.g. temperature, range of food particle sizes). Brown (9) suggests that niche breadth along different axes is positively correlated and that this explains positive correlations across species between local abundance and breadth of geographic range. Multidimensional specialization might be expected if species arise in localized regions that differ in several ecological respects from those occupied by parent species. Cody (20), however, suggested that the breadth of habitat is negatively correlated with diet breadth among certain bird species. In practice, quantitative measurement of niche breadth can be difficult (22,

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Topics: Ecological niche (64%), Population (54%)

1,976 Citations


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