Study in SL shows human adaptability | Daily News
Evidence found of humans hunting small mammals 45,000 years ago:

Study in SL shows human adaptability

This is an example of tools manufactured from monkey bones and teeth recovered from the Late Pleistocene layers of Fa Hien Cave (Pahiyangala Cave) in Sri Lanka. Credit: N. Amano.
This is an example of tools manufactured from monkey bones and teeth recovered from the Late Pleistocene layers of Fa Hien Cave (Pahiyangala Cave) in Sri Lanka. Credit: N. Amano.

A multidisciplinary study has found evidence of humans hunting small mammals in the forests of Sri Lanka at least 45,000 years ago.

The researchers discovered the remains of small mammals, including primates, with evidence of cut-marks and burning at the oldest archaeological site occupied by humans in Sri Lanka, alongside sophisticated bone and stone tools.

The hunting of such animals is an example of the uniquely human adaptability that allowed H. sapiens to rapidly colonize a series of extreme environments apparently untouched by its hominin relatives.

In the new paper published in Nature Communications, an international team of scientists has revealed this novel evidence for the unique adaptability of Homo sapiens. The study, led by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, alongside colleagues from Sri Lankan and other international institutions, shows that human populations were able to specialize in the hunting of small arboreal animals for tens of thousands of years.

This is the oldest and longest record of sophisticated, active primate hunting by foragers. This work also highlights the distinctive ecological capacities of H. sapiens relative to its hominin ancestors and relatives.

Tropical rainforests have been somewhat neglected in discussions of human migrations and dispersal. In particular, when compared to the large animals of open savannas, small, fast forest monkeys and squirrels are difficult to capture and provide smaller amounts of protein.

The procurement of small mammals has long been considered a feature of technological and behavioural ‘complexity’ or ‘modernity’ unique to our species.

Sri Lanka has been a prominent part of discussions of early human adaptations to tropical rainforests, though there has been a general lack of systematic, detailed analysis of animal remains associated with archaeological sites on the island. For the current study, the researchers produced new chronological information, analysis of animal remains, and studies of lithic and bone tool assemblages from Fa-Hien Lena Cave, the site of the earliest fossil and archaeological evidence of H. sapiens in Sri Lanka.

“The results demonstrate specialized, sophisticated hunting of semi-arboreal and arboreal monkey and squirrel populations from 45,000 years ago in a tropical rainforest environment,” says Oshan Wedage, lead author of the study, of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. Co-author Dr. Noel Amano, also of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, adds, “This was complemented by sophisticated bone tool technologies which were, in turn, created from the bones of hunted monkeys.”

Together, the results of this new work demonstrate a highly tuned focus on monkey and other small mammal hunting over 45,000 years. A sustained focus on adult monkeys throughout this time period suggests that this strategy continued to be sustainable during this lengthy period and that the tropical rainforests were not over-taxed by human presence and practices.

“This ‘monkey menu’ was not a one-off, and the use of these difficult-to-catch resources is one more example of the behavioural and technological flexibility of H. sapiens,” says Prof. Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, a senior author of the study. Further detailed analysis of the tools and animal remains left behind by early members of our species promises to yield more insights into the variety of strategies that enabled H. sapiens to colonize the world’s continents and left us the last hominin standing.

- Science Daily


 

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