Friday, April 20, 2012

‘Meat eating played a big role in human evolution’

LONDON: Meat eating helped early humans to spread more quickly across the world and had a profound effect on human evolution, scientists say.

Researchers from Lund University in Sweden found that the high-quality diet allowed mothers to wean babies earlier and have more children, allowing human communities to grow faster.

The researchers, who detailed their findings in the scientific journal PLoS ONE, compared 67 species of mammals, including humans, apes, mice and killer whales, and found a clear correlation between eating meat and earlier weaning.

They also found that babies of all species stop suckling when their brains have developed to a particular stage, but carnivores reached this point more quickly than herbivores or omnivores.

"Eating meat enabled the breast-feeding periods and thereby the time between births to be shortened," lead author Elia Psouni was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail. "This must have had a crucial impact on human evolution."

In the past, researchers had tried to explain the shorter breast-feeding period of humans based on social and behavioural theories of parenting and family size.

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