Phylogenetic rate shifts in feeding time during the evolution of Homo.

Bibliographic Collection: 
APE, MOCA Reference
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Organ, Chris; Nunn, Charles L; Machanda, Zarin; Wrangham, Richard W
Year of Publication: 2011
Journal: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
Volume: 108
Issue: 35
Pagination: 14555-9
Date Published: 2011 Aug 30
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 1091-6490
Keywords: Animals, Biological Evolution, Body Size, Feeding Behavior, Hominidae, Humans, Phylogeny

Unique among animals, humans eat a diet rich in cooked and nonthermally processed food. The ancestors of modern humans who invented food processing (including cooking) gained critical advantages in survival and fitness through increased caloric intake. However, the time and manner in which food processing became biologically significant are uncertain. Here, we assess the inferred evolutionary consequences of food processing in the human lineage by applying a Bayesian phylogenetic outlier test to a comparative dataset of feeding time in humans and nonhuman primates. We find that modern humans spend an order of magnitude less time feeding than predicted by phylogeny and body mass (4.7% vs. predicted 48% of daily activity). This result suggests that a substantial evolutionary rate change in feeding time occurred along the human branch after the human-chimpanzee split. Along this same branch, Homo erectus shows a marked reduction in molar size that is followed by a gradual, although erratic, decline in H. sapiens. We show that reduction in molar size in early Homo (H. habilis and H. rudolfensis) is explicable by phylogeny and body size alone. By contrast, the change in molar size to H. erectus, H. neanderthalensis, and H. sapiens cannot be explained by the rate of craniodental and body size evolution. Together, our results indicate that the behaviorally driven adaptations of food processing (reduced feeding time and molar size) originated after the evolution of Homo but before or concurrent with the evolution of H. erectus, which was around 1.9 Mya.

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1107806108
Related MOCA Topics: