Turns out seafood isn’t just tasty and a desirable source of Omega-3 fatty acids. But, historically, it could have given homo sapiens a leg up over neanderthals in the competition to survive.
According to a new study by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, it was our ability to eat fish which prevented human populations from thinning when there were game shortages.
Such flexibility may explain why modern humans thrived in ancient Europe while Neanderthals perished, says Hervé Bocherens, a biological anthropologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany. “If modern humans were hunting big game, like Neanderthals, they would compete with them and deplete the resources.”
When big game were scarce, modern humans could have survived and even flourished by eating fish and smaller animals. Neanderthal populations, by contrast, probably shrank and eventually disappeared in areas from which their more limited meal options disappeared.
Of course, the scientists who studied the bone collagen of comparable neanderthals and humans were working with a tiny sample size, so it’s possible this study is moot. It seems, however, that there would be an intrinsic evolutionary advantage to having a well-rounded diet.