New Insights into the Evolution of the Human Diet from Faecal Biomarker Analysis in Wild Chimpanzee and Gorilla Faeces.
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Our understanding of early human diets is based on reconstructed biomechanics of hominin jaws, bone and teeth isotopic data, tooth wear patterns, lithic, taphonomic and zooarchaeological data, which do not provide information about the relative amounts of different types of foods that contributed most to early human diets. Faecal biomarkers are proving to be a valuable tool in identifying relative proportions of plant and animal tissues in Palaeolithic diets. A limiting factor in the application of the faecal biomarker approach is the striking absence of data related to the occurrence of faecal biomarkers in non-human primate faeces. In this study we explored the nature and proportions of sterols and stanols excreted by our closest living relatives. This investigation reports the first faecal biomarker data for wild chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei). Our results suggest that the chemometric analysis of faecal biomarkers is a useful tool for distinguishing between NHP and human faecal matter, and hence, it could provide information for palaeodietary research and early human diets.
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