Almost everyone has been the “new kid” at some point in their life. And, we can probably all agree that whether it was in a new school, neighborhood, on a sports team, etc., being the new kid meant everyone was interested in you. But, why are we so interesting as the new kid? As someone who is unknown to a group, the new kid enkindles curiosity, which encourages others to better understand them so they can be comfortably classified into a form of the taxonomic system. Likewise, every few years a new hominin fossil typically emerges, and the rush to classify this “new kid” begins among paleoanthropologists. Recently, the discovery of Homo naledi (H. naledi) has led researchers to attempt to classify and place it within the context of our lineage.
Imagine you could blast back to the past. Where would you go? Who would you be? With the advent of time traveling fantasy novels, renaissance fairs and historical movies, it’s easy to get a taste of history. So, in that spirit, let's travel back to an era far, far away to the land of Africa during the late Miocene!
So, you’re at the dentist office. While sitting in the waiting room, you pick up one of the many magazines. On the cover, is a title heralding a new dietary trend; the Paleo Diet. It may read “Eat like a Caveman” or “Paleo diet 101”. We see such titles everywhere as the paleo diet has gained enormous popularity in the western world. Often boasting staggering, stupendous, incredible health benefits, the paleo diet attempts to return us to the food our early ancestors consumed. However, many of the paleo diets we see in books and magazines are only loosely based on actual hominin diets. But, how are these paleo diets compiled when the generation they refer to has been gone for a few million years? Well, paleoanthropologists have been able to delve into the hominin diet by observing dental adaptations left behind by our early ancestors, documenting and cataloging information on early hominin diet.
Remember that vacation you took when you were with your squad? They looked good, you looked good, the weather was perfect and the selfies on fleek. Everyone has moments they remember fondly and wish they could go back to. And, like everyone else, paleoanthropologists wish they could go back in time, too…Just a couple of million years more!