Australopithecus sediba has been hypothesized to be a close relative of the genus Homo. Here we show that MH1, the type specimen of A. sediba, was not optimized to produce high molar bite force and appears to have been limited in its ability to consume foods that were mechanically challenging to eat. Dental microwear data have previously been interpreted as indicating that A. sediba consumed hard foods, so our findings illustrate that mechanical data are essential if one aims to reconstruct a relatively complete picture of feeding adaptations in extinct hominins. An implication of our study is that the key to understanding the origin of Homo lies in understanding how environmental changes disrupted gracile australopith niches. Resulting selection pressures led to changes in diet and dietary adaption that set the stage for the emergence of our genus.
Ledogar JA, Smith AL, Benazzi S, Weber GW, Spencer MA, Carlson KB, McNulty KP, Dechow PC, Grosse IR, Ross CF, Richmond BG, Wright B, Wang Q, Byron C, Carlson KJ, De Ruiter DJ, Berger LR, Tamvada K, Pryor LC, Berthaume MA, Strait DS. Mechanical Evidence That Australopithecus sediba was Limited in its Ability to Eat Hard Foods. Nature Communications. 2016; 7. doi: 10.1038/ncomms10596.