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What saved us? The answer may be shellfish.

December 17th, 2009

Big thanks to Joejoejoe for sending me this gorgeous article about how humans may owe it all to shellfish. Please read the whole thing. Here are some quotes:

A couple hundred thousand years ago, the planet became a much colder and drier place. In Africa, deserts expanded, species were wiped out and the human race was in deep trouble.

somewhere between 130,000 to 190,000 years ago, the human species was reduced to less than 1000 breeding individuals— just a few thousand people in total. Ancient, naturally driven climate change pushed our species to the brink…

What saved us? …the answer may be “shellfish”.

®esearchers have theorized that eating shellfish was actually the driver that allowed humans to develop the big brains we enjoy today, because shellfish are high in the Omega 3 fatty acids that the brain needs to function.

[Other researchers contend that] big brains enabled a small group of humans to make the switch to a shellfish diet—an adaptation that allowed them to survive a climactic upheaval that wiped out most of their peers.

Thinking about time and anthropology, I’ve often wondered how close the human species came to extinction at various points during its evolution. Isn’t it mind-bending to think that over 100,000 years ago there were about 1000 people who were left to determine humankind’s destiny? We are in debt to ancient bands of survivors living along an African shore, enjoying oysters or other shellfish.

Isn’t it nice that this vital group of oysterlovers didn’t go to war with each other over some silly difference in tribal convictions. What if one night Oot-oot interpreted distant thunder as a sign for him to take Mok mok’s woman for himself? A fight breaks out and grows, factions form, and soon a fratricidal “final conflict” commences. It’s really shocking that we were down to 1000 or so people and were somehow able to survive another 150,000 years without dying off or killing ourselves.

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