Seaweed said to have played a role in early human evolution

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Sea Weed

A surprising finding indicates that seaweed could have played a role in early human evolution helping humans to evolve and branch out from their primitive hominoid family millions of years ago.

Scientists have long advocated the notion that human ancestors may have undergone one of their most significant developments some 2-2.5 million years ago and that development paved way for development of the human brain as we know it today. Energy-rich food packed with nutrients is the prime requirement of human brain and scientists say that our ancestors would have required the same level of energy and nutrients for their developing brains.

Seaweed is a good source of such nutrients and that’s what helped our ancestors and their brains to evolve and to branch out from their primitive hominoid family millions of years ago.

Without nutrients like magnesium and zinc modern brains cannot function and according to a number of scientific studies it is likely that the access to certain essential nutrients influenced the evolution of the human brain so that it could become the brain we have today.

Seaweeds could be found and harvested in abundance on shores, and for a foraging lifestyle, a rich coastal environment would be a significant source of a consistent supply of these nutrients, said Professor Ole G Mouritsen, from University of Southern Denmark.

Scientists studied the potential impact of consumption of a variety of seaweeds (large marine algae or macroalgae) in human brain health, including benefits to early Homo sapiens. Study indicated that human lineage is estimated to have diverged from our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees, around five to seven million years ago. However, the changing patterns of resource distribution associated with the extensive drying and expansion of the African savannahs between 2.5 and two million years ago have been the impetus for a shift in foraging behaviour among early members of the genus Homo.

Foraging over longer distances for food would have contributed to bipedalism and a different body stature as increasingly larger ranges had to be traversed, and in the case of our primitive ancestors, this would undoubtedly lead to significant changes in diet, researchers said.

Coastal areas may very well have attracted early hominoids in search of food. Our ancestors would find foods like fish, crustaceans, snails, seaweeds, bird eggs and perhaps occasional dead marine vertebrates. However, they probably did not have the necessary rudimental understanding of seasonal tidal cycles and their influence on shellfish availability.

Seaweeds of different types, on the other hands, can be found all across the intertidal zone from the high water mark to the subtidal regions and they could be readily and repeatedly harvested for food by all family members, including women and children, researchers said. Seaweed is just as healthy and nutritious for humans today as it was millions of years ago, said Mouritsen.

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Phycology.

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