Meat-eating key to human evolution

A new study has revealed that meat eating was fundamental in determining human life history and evolution.

The study, published in science journal PlusONE, showed that early human’s carnivorous diet allowed them to wean babies earlier than other species, such as the great ape. Earlier weaning allowed mothers to reduce the time between births, enabling the human population to spread more quickly.

During the study, researchers from Lund University in Sweden compared the developmental characteristics of 67 species of mammals and found that body size, brain and diet accounted for 90% of the reasons for the time of weaning.

In particular, they found that the young of all animals stop suckling when their brains reach a particular developmental stage, and this stage seems to occur earlier in carnivores - defined as species who get at least 20% of their calories come from meat - than in herbivores or omnivores.

This early weaning allowed shorter intervals between births and higher rates of reproduction, which researchers said had “profound effects” on population dymanics.

“Eating meat enabled the breast-feeding periods and thereby the time between births to be shortened,’ said Elia Psouni, lead author of the study. “This must have had a crucial impact on human evolution.’

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