Skip to main content
  1. News
  2. Science & Space

Oldest Neanderthal poop ever found reveals dietary preferences

See also

Neanderthal diet has been a matter of contention for more than a century due to the limited amount of fossil evidence that has been found that would indicate what Neanderthal’s ate. Ainara Sistiaga from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of La Laguna and colleagues have discovered new evidence about Neanderthal’s diet in feces (coprolites) preserved at the El Salt site in Spain. The new discovery was published in the June 25, 2014, edition of the journal Public Library of Science.

The five samples found may be the oldest known human fecal matter and date to about 50,000 years ago. Although anatomically different from modern humans, fossil evidence indicates that Neanderthal’s has a similar dietary chemistry that produced identifiable remains in the Neanderthal’s feces. The components of dietary matter from the Neanderthal feces discovered at the El Salt site were analyzed using gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry.

The results indicate that Neanderthals diet included more vegetable matter than previously thought. Neanderthals were primarily carnivores. The new analysis indicates that these early human ancestors consumed vegetable matter at about 15 percent of their diet. The analysis indicated the source of the majority of vegetable food consumed by Neanderthals was in the form of tubers that grew underground.

This study explains the vegetable remains found in some Neanderthal’s teeth in recent years. More specific methods of extraction allowed the discovery of a vegetable component in Neanderthals diet that has been confirmed by this new research. More interestingly, the new research indicates that the bacterial component of the Neanderthal gut and the enzyme systems that metabolized both meat and vegetables were very much like those found in modern humans.

The earliest known human ancestors are known to have eaten grasses as a part of their diet. Now we know that Neanderthals also consumed vegetable matter. Perhaps the small percentage of Neanderthal DNA that exists in many humans is part of the origin of modern man’s voracious appetite for fruits and vegetables.

Advertisement

News

  • Gaza school shelled
    Israeli airstrikes topple a school in Gaza suspected of housing rockets; dozens killed
    Video
    Video
  • Ebola outbreak
    An American with Ebola virus died shortly after boarding three planes
    World News
  • Why dogs smell butts
    Researchers figure out why dogs like to smell each other's butts
    Pets
  • Time to stop tanning
    The surgeon general advises us not to tan as melanoma cases are on the rise
    Health News
  • Zimmerman lands dream job
    George Zimmerman lands his dream job as a security guard at a gun/motorcycle shop
    Headlines
  • 10 smartest states
    Here are the 10 most educated states in the U.S., did yours make the cut?
    US News

Related Videos:

  • Buzz Aldrin and the American flag on the moon
    <iframe width="420" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/O4KxesvbiMU?VQ=HD720&amp;allowfullscreen=true&amp;autoplay=1"></iframe>
  • Orbital Sciences rocket brings supplies and experiments to space station
    <div class="video-info" data-id="518318477" data-param-name="playList" data-provider="5min" data-url="http://pshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?sid=1304&width=480&height=401&playList=518318477&autoStart=true"></div>
  • Liftoff Apollo 11
    <iframe width="420" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/zGNryrsT7OI?VQ=HD720&amp;allowfullscreen=true&amp;autoplay=1"></iframe>