Lucy in the Sky with Steak


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We aren't the only great apes that prize a good steak. It's well-known that chimpanzees and bonobos hunt other animals and consider flesh a great prize. The evidence is that if they were better hunters they would probably eat more meat. At what point in our evolution did meat go from a rare treat to a preocupation?

It seems we were butchers before we were hunters, which makes sense in light of the importance of fats in our diet. It is a blessing that for many animals the fat is locked inside hard alabaster bones. Another better hunter might have fangs, but our ancestors apparently had such a great desire for the fat within that they were willing to carry stones great distance to break open the bones that even predator teeth would falter upon.

We carried our own fangs in our hands, making up for a history of being mired in days of chewing hard plants that left us with the legacy of fairly-innocuous looking teeth. But while we never got the matching maw, we instead got something much nicer— big brains and flat stomachs.

Perhaps this happened as early as 3.4 million years ago, say some anthropologists in a NYtimes article published today. While it's hotly contested, there is some startling new evidence that "Lucy" Australopithecus afarensis used stone tools on animal bones. To bolster this evidence, a recently uncovered Australopithecus afarensis skeleton showed evidence of a thorax that wasn't built for eating leaves all day.

We can probably credit the human sexy washboard abs (if we eat right) to eating meat. To contrast, gorillas have to carry the equipment necessary to turn fiber into fatty acids in their ample potbellies.

It's all about quality food. And meat is the ultimate quality food.