Paranthropus robustus, a dead-end branch of the early human family tree, has been described as a “chewing machine” that was mostly jaws and not much brains. … Using lasers to vaporize tiny particles of tooth enamel, researchers in the United States and Great Britain analyzed the chemical makeup of 1.8-million-year-old fossil teeth from four individuals unearthed in the Swartkrans cave site in South Africa. …Based on the types of carbon isotopes preserved in the P. robustus fossils, the team concludes that the diminutive primates had a surprisingly varied and flexible menu.
Their seasonally adapted diet may have included fruits, seeds, roots, tubers, and even insects.
The findings contradict the long-held theory that P. robustus was a dietary specialist that chomped solely on low-quality plants … Scientists had long cited this theory to explain why the bipedal primate went extinct 1.5 to 1 million years ago, arguing that the human ancestor couldn’t cope with food scarcity in Africa’s changing environment. – natgeo