One of the hallmarks of human evolution is extended parenting. A new research recently published reveals the parenting habits of one of our earliest ancestors that have gone extinct.
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By analyzing teeth over 2 million years old from Australopithecus africanus fossils found in South Africa, researchers have found out that mothers breastfed infants continuously from birth to about one year of age.
Nursing appears to continue in a cyclical pattern in the early years for infants; seasonal changes and food shortages caused the mother to supplement gathered foods with breastmilk. An international research team led by Dr. Renaud Joannes-Boyau of Southern Cross University, and by Dr. Luca Fiorenza and Dr. Justin W. Adams from Monash University, published the details of their research into the species in Nature today.
“For the first time, we gained new insight into the way our ancestors raised their young, and how mothers had to supplement solid food intake with breastmilk when resources were scarce,” said geochemist Dr. Joannes-Boyau from the Geoarchaeology and Archaeometry Research Group (GARG) at Southern Cross University.
For decades there has been speculation about how early ancestors raised their offspring. With this study, the research team has opened a new window into our enigmatic evolutionary history.
Know more about this research on PHYS.org.
(Image Credit: Jose Garcia and Renaud Joannes-Boyau, Southern Cross University)