October 2, 2013 2:09 pm
Around 257,000 years ago, at least one of our ancient relatives became hyena lunch. Researchers studying fossilized hyena dung found in South Africa confirmed the presence of 48 strands of hair in one hyena patty, some of which belonged to hominins, and others from warhogs, impalas and zebras.
The brown hyena who originally planted the evidence most likely ate the person, Discovery writes. However, the hyena also could have found a dead body or dug up a recently buried corpse. The researchers used scanning electron microscopy to determine which animals the hairs belonged to, although they can’t determine the hairs’ identities down to the species level. Bands of microscopic scales covering the hairs help researchers match which animal they correspond to.
This is not the first time this technique has been used to pick out human hairs from poop. A similar finding made headlines back in 2009 when the then-oldest human hair was found in fossilized hyena dung around 195,000 to 257,000 years old. It just goes to show, National Geographic writes, that thousands of years ago humans were just another potential predator or prey (depending upon whether you’re a zebra or a hyena) trying to make it in the wild world. Along those lines, the researchers of this new study hope to get their hands on more ancient piles of poo to try and better piece together the who ate whom on the ancient Savannah.
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