Neanderthal dental tartar discloses plant-based diet- and drugs

Published in Odd and Fun on 19th June 2017

Analysis of teeth of Spanish Neanderthals evidences food of pine seeds, mushrooms and moss and indicates possible self-medication for tendernes and diarrhoea

A diet of pine seeds, mushrooms and moss might sound like modernist cuisine, but it turns out “its been” touchstone fare for Spanish Neanderthals.

Researchers learning the teeth of the heavy-browed hominids to realize that while Neanderthals in Belgium were chomping on woolly rhinoceros, those further souths were existing on plants and may even have used naturally occurring painkillers to ease toothache.

The findings, health researchers answer, are yet another blow to the popular misconception of Neanderthals as brutish simpletons.

Neanderthals , not surprisingly, are doing different things, employing different things, in different places, alleged Keith Dobney, a bioarchaeologist and co-author of studies and research from the University of Liverpool.

Writing in the periodical Nature, Dobney and an international squad of colleagues describe how they analysed ancient DNA from microbes and food debris preserved in the dental tartar, or calculus, of three Neanderthals dating from 42,000 to 50,000 years ago. Two of the individuals is coming from the El Sidrn cave in Spain while one was from the Spy Cave in Belgium.

The develops reveal that northern Neanderthals had a wide-ranging diet, with evidence of a mushroom known as gray-headed shag in their tartar, together with marks of woolly rhinoceros and wild sheep.

By contrast Neanderthals from El Sidrn indicated no evidence of meat ingesting instead they appear to have survived on a mix of forest moss, pine seeds and a mushroom known as split gill.

The difference was further backed up by DN-Abased analysis of the diversity and make-up of microbial parishes that had lived in the Neanderthals lips.

The observes corroborate previous subjects suggesting that the Neanderthals of El Sidrn ate little flesh, although Dobney prudence against depicting broader opinions, quoting the small sample size of the most recent study. I hesitate to say that we have clear, definitive proof that Neanderthals in Spain were vegetarian, he said.

Indeed, research looking at ratings on the bones of Neanderthals from El Sidrn has suggested they might been the victims of cannibalism. While Dobney does not rule out the prospect, he points out that the two Neanderthals in the latest examine are unlikely to have been feasting on their relatives.

You would expect if Neanderthals were gobbling each other, that the quantity of Neanderthal DNA would be a lot higher in[ the tartar] it would be part of the food dust, he articulated.[ That] doesnt appear to be the case.

One of the Spanish Neanderthals is known to have had a pain dental abscess, while analysis of the tartar from the same individual furnished evidence of a parasite known to induce diarrhoea in humans.

To cope, the researchers contribute, the unfortunate individual might well self-medicating. While previous effort has suggested the El Sidrn Neanderthals might have employed yarrow and chamomile, the tartar of the unwell soul indicates evidence of poplar, which contains the active ingredient of aspirin, salicylic acid, and a species of penicillium fungus, suggesting the Neanderthal might have benefited from a natural informant of antibiotics.

Potentially this is evidence of more sophisticated behaviour in terms of knowledge of medicinal plants, spoke Dobey. The plan that Neanderthals were a bit simple-minded and just dragging their knuckles around is one that has travelled a very long time ago, certainly in the anthropological world.

Dobney belief the new approaching could testify valued in understanding the growth is not simply of our diet but likewise of our microbiota, indicating same analysis be carried out on the remains of even earlier hominid relatives. We are actually start to mine this amazing record of our seam evolutionary history with these key microorganisms that are basically part of our lives and keep us alive, he said.

Chris Stringer, a palaeoanthropologist and expert in human parentages from the Natural History Museum in London who was not involved in the research, accepted such studies. It is great handiwork and very exciting, he added.

But, he forewarns, the dental tartar might not tell the full tale, because it might not preserve all sections of a Neanderthals diet , nor the percentage in which they were ingested. Impurity from DNA preserved in sediments in the cave must also be considered, he responded, while the plant substance found in meat-eating Neanderthals might, at least in part, gathered from the hominids eating the gut contents of their prey.

Stringer is also enthusiastic about the revelations around the Neanderthals microbiota. To have that data from inside the mouth of a Neanderthal from 50,000 years ago is stupefying substance, he said.

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