University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Winter 1999

Food for Thought

Researchers suggest humans evolved near water before moving inland

The first humans were probably beach-dwellers foraging for shellfish, not grassland hunter-gatherers as is commonly believed, says nutritional sciences professor Stephen Cunnane and a group of international researchers. They have assembled evidence that the large brains of the earliest humans could only have evolved on the nutrient-rich diet provided by shellfish and other animal life found near shorelines. The researchers found that the fatty acid DHA, which is necessary for human brain and eye development, is easily available in food near shore environments but not in the savannah diet. This suggests humans evolved near water before spreading inland, Cunnane says.

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