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南方古猿的食谱

  Some Prehumans Feasted on Bark Instead of Grasses

  南方古猿的食谱

  Almost two million years after their last meals, two members of a prehuman species in southern Africa left traces in their teeth of what they had eaten then, as well as over a lifetime of foraging. Scientists were surprised to find that these hominins apparently lived almost exclusively on a diet of leaves, fruits, wood and bark.

  大约200万年前,两只古猿吃完了它们最后的一顿饭。它们的牙齿上留下当时所吃食物的痕迹,也留下了它们生前觅食的线索。科学家们惊讶地发现,这些类人猿似乎只吃树叶、水果、木头和树皮。

  If you are what you eat, the new research and other recent studies suggest there was more diversity in the diets of early prehumans, both within and between species, than previously understood. And this could in part account for the recently recognized physical diversity among the long intermediate line of hominins belonging to the genus Australopithecus.

  如果说吃什么就变什么的话,最新的调查和近期的研究都表明,不管是在同一物种内部,还是不同物种之间,早期原人的食物结构,都比人们先前所知的更多样化。而这可能在一定程度上解释了最近发现的南方古猿属 (Australopithecus) 各原人种之间物理特征的多样性。

  The dietary pattern of the enigmatic species, Australopithecus sediba, discovered four years ago in the Malapa caves northwest of Johannesburg, was unexpected for several reasons. It contrasted sharply with available data for other hominins in the region and elsewhere in Africa; they mainly consumed grasses and sedges from the savanna.

  四年前在约翰内斯堡 (Johannesburg) 西北的玛拉帕 (Malapa) 山洞里发现的南方古猿源泉种 (Australopithecus sediba) 是一个非常神秘的物种。从好几个方面来看,它们的饮食结构都有些出乎意料。 首先,它和在同一地区以及非洲其他地方得到的关于其他原人的数据明显不同;后者主要的食物是热带草原上的青草和莎草。

  The Au. sediba diet also appeared to be a matter of choice, not necessity. Other evidence from animal fossils and sediments in the area indicated the presence at the time of vast grasslands in the vicinity. Yet these hominins, their skeletons adapted for tree climbing as well as upright walking, chose to feed themselves in adjacent woodlands. In this, scientists said, their behavior was more like that of modern chimpanzees, which tend to ignore savanna grasses, or perhaps the more apelike hominin Ardipithecus ramidus, which lived largely on hard foods some 4.4 million years ago.

  此外,南方古猿源泉种的饮食结构看起来更像是基于选择,而不是必然。从动物化石和当地沉积物中得到的其他证据表明,当时周围出现了辽阔的草原。然而,尽管它们的骨骼既能爬树也适应直立行走,但这些原人却选择去附近的林地觅食。科学家们认为,在这一点上,它们的行为更接近现代黑猩猩——因为黑猩猩就不吃草原上的草——或是一种叫做地猿始祖种 (Ardipithecus ramidus) 的古类人猿。地猿始祖种生活在约440万年以前,基本上以坚硬的食物为生。

  An international team of scientists led by Amanda G. Henry of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, reported on Wednesday the research that supported their findings. Their paper was published online by the journal Nature and will appear later in a printed edition.

  由德国莱比锡马普研究所人类进化学协会 (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology) 的阿曼达·G·亨利 (Amanda G. Henry) 领导的一个国际科学家小组周三发表了支持他们结论的研究报告。他们的文章被《自然》(Nature) 杂志发表在网上,随后会出现在杂志的印刷版上。

纽约时报中英文网 www.qqenglish.com

  “If these individuals are representative of the species,” the scientists wrote, “Au. sediba had a diet that was different from those of most early African hominins studied so far.”

  “如果这两个个体能代表其所属的物种,”科学家们写道,“那么南方古猿源泉种的饮食就和目前已研究过的大多数早期非洲原人不同。”

  They also concluded that the “inferred consumption” of woodland products “increased the known variety of early hominin foods.” But there is still much that is unknown or unclear about the newfound species: how or if it is related to modern humans and just where it fits on the hominin family tree.

  他们还总结说,“由推断所知的”这种林地食性“扩大了目前已知的早期原人的食物种类。”但关于新发现的这个物种,还有很多东西是未知的,或不明朗的:它和现代人类有关系吗?有什么样的关系?处在人类及其祖先家族谱系的什么位置?

  The discovery, by Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, of two partial skeletons — one an adult female, the other a juvenile male — was the basis for the announcement two years ago of the new hominin species. These and at least one other adult specimen indicate that these hominins stood little more than four feet tall and had small brains and a mix of primitive and more modern anatomies. Dr. Berger was an author of the new journal report.

  这两具不完整骨骸是由约翰内斯堡金山大学 (University of Witwatersrand) 的李·伯杰 (Lee Berger) 发现的,其中一具属于成年女性,另外一具属于未成年男性。两年前,依据这两具化石,科学家确定了这个新的类人物种。这两具化石以及另外至少一具成年人化石标本表明,这些类人生物直立身高略高于四英尺,大脑较小,解剖学特征有的依然原始,但有的已经比较现代。伯杰博士是这篇报告的作者之一。

  Few other paleoanthropologists agree with Dr. Berger’s contention that the new species is the most plausible known ancestor of archaic and modern humans. Dr. Henry’s group said that studies of additional fossils from the Malapa caves “will provide a better understanding of the dietary ecology of Au. sediba.”

  伯杰称,这个新物种最有可能是远古人类和现代人类的已知祖先。但几乎没有其他古人类学家赞同他的观点。亨利博士领导的团队称,对玛拉帕山洞其他化石的研究“会更有助于了解南方古猿源泉种的饮食生态。”<纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com/>

  Ian Tattersall, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, who was not involved in the research, called the findings “intriguing” and the research “an imaginative and multisided approach that makes you want to know more about this morphologically unusual species.”

  伊恩·塔特索尔 (Ian Tattersall) 是纽约美国自然历史博物馆 (American Museum of Natural History) 的一名古人类学家,他没有参与研究。他认为,研究结论“很有趣”,并表示这项研究“是一次富有想象力的尝试,有很多方面的意义,让人们想要更多地了解这个从形态学上来看很不同寻常的物种。”

  “Fortunately,” Dr. Tattersall added, “rumor has it that more specimens are on the way.”

  “幸运的是,”塔特索尔博士补充道,“据说有更多标本正在研究中。”

  Dr. Henry’s team followed three lines of research. One was an analysis of carbon isotopes extracted by laser from tooth enamel, one of the most durable and least contaminated body parts, and one that preserves chemical signatures of what was eaten in one’s youth. The type and amount of isotopes left from a diet of tree leaves, fruit and bark were well outside the range of those seen in all previously tested hominins — at least 95 percent forest food.

  亨利博士的团队有三个研究方向。第一个方向是分析用激光从牙釉质分离出来的碳同位素。牙釉质是人体保存时间最长且受污染最少的部份,保存了个体在年少时所吃食物的化学特征。研究检测出了树叶、水果和树皮残留的同位素,其种类和数量都远远超出了此前原人化石测得的范围。这些食物中至少95%是森林植物。

  A second approach was an examination of dental microwear, which can reveal pits, scratches and cracks left by hard foods consumed shortly before death. Dr. Tattersall said that this “doesn’t help much to clarify the situation, since it appears to differ significantly between the two individuals.”

  第二个研究方向是检查牙齿的轻微磨损,这可以看出个体死亡前不久进食坚硬食物时在牙齿上造成的凹陷、划痕和裂缝。塔特索尔博士说,这个研究方向“无助于搞清情况,因为看起来这两个个体之间的差异很显著。”

  Finally, microscopic plant particles, called phytoliths, were recovered from dental tartar for the first time from a very ancient hominin (but from only one of the two individuals). Scientists said this apparently confirmed the carbon isotopic evidence for woodland diets.

  第三个方向是研究被称作植硅体的微观植物颗粒。在研究中,植硅体第一次被从远古类人(只选取两具化石中的一具)的牙结石上提取出来。科学家称这项研究显然确证了林地食物的碳同位素证据。

  Benjamin H. Passey, a geochemist at Johns Hopkins University, who conducted the tests determining the high ratio of carbon isotopes indicating a diet mostly of forest foods, explained why the research was important to an understanding of human evolution.

  本杰明·H·帕西 (Benjamin H. Passey) 是约翰·霍普金斯大学 (Johns Hopkins University) 的一名地球化学家。他主持进行了碳同位素检测的实验,就是他的实验检出了高比例碳同位素,说明该物种的饮食主要是森林植物。关于这个研究对了解人类进化的重要意义,他说:

  “One thing people probably don’t realize is that humans are basically grass eaters,” Dr. Passey said in a statement. “We eat grass in the form of the grains we use to make breads, noodles, cereals and beers, and we eat animals that eat grass. So when did our addiction to grass begin? At what point in our evolutionary history did we start making use of grasses? We are simply trying to find out where in the human chain that begins.”

  “有一点人们可能还没意识到。人类基本上是食草动物,”帕西博士说道。“我们用粮食制作面包、面条、粥和啤酒,我们吃的都是草本植物。我们吃的动物也是食草动物。那么,我们是从什么时候开始喜欢上吃草的呢?在我们的进化史上,我们是从何时开始利用各种草本植物的呢?我们就是想知道,在人类进化的链条上,这些都是在什么时候开始发生的。”

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