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News Release 11-088

"Nutcracker Man" Had Fundamentally Different Diet

Scientists: P. boisei probably grazed like ancient warthogs and hippos

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Nutcracker Man eating fruit.

Nutcracker Man's diet has been a source of scientific debate because his powerful jaws, huge molars and big, flat cheek teeth indicated he probably fed on nuts and seeds or roots and tubers. But new research shows he most likely ate grass and possibly sedges.

Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation

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Understanding ancient diets, is a combination of anthropology, biology, engineering and dentistry. Here, Science Nation explains the mechanics of how it's done.

Credit: National Science Foundation


Anthropologist Peter Ungar, University of Arkansas, describes the scratches and pits on Nutcracker Man's large teeth. Ungar's research findings helped anthropologists rethink Paranthropus boisei's diet.

Credit: National Science Foundation