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Recent news from The Johns Hopkins University

This section contains regularly updated highlights of the news from around The Johns Hopkins University. Links to the complete news reports from the nine schools, the Applied Physics Laboratory and other centers and institutes are to the left, as are links to help news media contact the Johns Hopkins communications offices.

 

Scientists report earlier shift in human ancestor diet

Millions of years ago our primate ancestors turned from trees and shrubs in search of food on the ground. In human evolution, that has made all the difference. The change marked a significant step toward the diverse eating habits that became a key human characteristic, and would have made these early humans more mobile and adaptable to their environment.

Newly Discovered Foot Points to a New Kid on the Hominin Block

It seems that “Lucy” was not the only hominin on the block in northern Africa about 3 million years ago. A team of researchers that included Johns Hopkins University geologist Naomi Levin has announced the discovery of a partial foot skeleton with characteristics (such as an opposable big toe bone) that don’t match those of Lucy, the human ancestor (or hominin) known to inhabit that region and considered by many to be the ancestor of all modern humans.

Crocodile and Hippopotamus Served as “Brain Food” for Early Human Ancestors

Your mother was right: Fish really is “brain food.” And it seems that even pre-humans living as far back as 2 million years ago somehow knew it. A team of researchers that included Johns Hopkins University geologist Naomi Levin has found that early hominids living in what is now northern Kenya ate a wider variety of foods than previously thought, including fish and aquatic animals such as turtles and crocodiles. Rich in protein and nutrients, these foods may have played a key role in the development of a larger, more human-like brain in our early forebears, which some anthropologists believe happened around 2 million years ago, according to the researchers’ study.

Some Like It Hot: Site of Human Evolution Was Scorching

If you think summer in your hometown is hot, consider it fortunate that you don’t live in the Turkana Basin of Kenya, where the average daily temperature has reached the mid-90s or higher, year-round, for the past 4 million years. The need to stay cool in that cradle of human evolution may relate, at least in part, to why pre-humans learned to walk upright, lost the fur that covered the bodies of their predecessors and became able to sweat more, Johns Hopkins University earth scientist Benjamin Passey said.