London, August 5 (IANS): Early modern humans and Neanderthals shared a similar diet — consisting mainly of mammoth and plants — and also competed for food which led to their downfall, new research has claimed.
“According to our results, Neanderthals and the early modern humans were in direct competition in regard to their diet, as well — and it appears that the Neanderthals drew the short straw in this contest,” said Dorothee Drucker, biogeologist from the University of Tubingen in Germany.
The first representatives of Homo sapiens colonised Europe around 43,000 years ago, replacing the Neanderthals there approximately 3,000 years later.
“Many studies examine the question of what led to this displacement — one hypothesis postulates that the diet of the anatomically modern humans was more diverse and flexible and often included fish,” added Herve Bocherens from the University of Tubingen.
Previous research suggested that early modern humans had a more varied diet than the Neanderthals. They fished for their food, did hunting and gathering across the plains.
However, the new study showed that our ancestors rarely ate fish but preferred a diet very similar to that of the Neanderthals.
Importantly, the proportion of plants in the diet of the anatomically modern humans was significantly higher than in Neanderthals — mammoths, on the other hand, appeared to have been one of the primary sources of meat in both species.
The findings showed that just like the Neanderthals, early modern humans or our ancestors had mainly mammoth and plants on their plates, creating a battle for food that Neanderthals lost, the researchers said.
For the study, appearing in the journal Scientific Reports, the team researched on the dietary habits of early modern man on the basis of the oldest known fossils from the Buran Kaya caves on the Crimean Peninsula in the Ukraine.
They measured the percentage of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes in the bones of the early humans and the locally present potential prey animals such as Saiga, horse and deer.
“The results revealed a very high proportion of the nitrogen isotope 15N in early modern humans, which originate but primarily from the consumption of mammoths,” Bocherens noted.