Scientists: Vegetarian cavemen died off, meat-eaters lived on

David Martosko Executive Editor
Font Size:

In news that’s sure to anger animal rights activists, French paleontologists and evolutionary scientists announced on August 8 that a vegetarian branch of the human family tree went extinct around 1 million years ago.

Our meat-eating ancestors, however, lived on and kept evolving.

Writing in the journal Nature, a team of scientists led by researchers from the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon and the Université de Toulouse Paul Sabatier reported that the “Paranthropus robustus” pre-human species vanished from our lineage. It “relied more on plant-based foodstuffs” than the species that evolved into present-day “Homo Sapiens” — people. (RELATED: Iowa congressman outflanks the animal rights movement)

The scientists used a laser to determine the ratios of isotopes of various elements in tooth enamel found in early skeletal remains. This, they wrote, can identify “diet and habitat changes.”

While the largely vegetarian species didn’t survive, the less diet-restricted “Australopithecus africanus” — which developed human-like facial features and a human-size brain cavity — continued to evolve. (RELATED: PETA bikini-babe promo bans pieces of meat)

Neither People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals nor the Humane Society of the United States, both of which advocate for vegetarian diets, immediately responded to requests for comment. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association also did not respond to a similar request.

Follow David on Twitter