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IMB Seminar: Alyssa Crittenden

Friday, September 22, 2017 - 12:00pm

SAIL Room, 111 Levin Building (425 S. University Ave.)

Alyssa Crittenden
Department of Anthropology
University of Nevada Las Vegas

Paleolithic or Paleomythic? What modern hunter-gatherer diet composition and gut microbiota can tell us about the evolution of human nutrition and life history

The world’s few remaining foraging populations are often used as referential models of human evolution – with topics ranging from the so-called “Paleolithic Diet” to the “hunter-gatherer workout”. We live in a time when our industrialized modes of subsistence have never been more dissimilar to those of our past, the Neolithic farmers or the Paleolithic hunter-gatherers. Despite this, there has been an increase in public curiosity and a revitalized effort on the part of scientists to better understand the lifeway that has characterized 95% of human evolution – that of nomadic foraging for wild foods. But what can modern day hunter-gatherers really tell us about our evolutionary past? Here, I discuss the ways in which data collected among the Hadza foragers of Tanzania are critical for evolutionary reconstructions of nutrition. I explore foraging profiles across the lifespan, seasonal differences in diet composition, the significant role played by fibrous tubers, and the phylogenetic diversity and metabolite production of Hadza gut microbiota. Shifts in diet composition have been linked to many key milestones in human evolution, including brain expansion, tool making, cooperation, routine food sharing, and family formation. Gaining a more comprehensive representation of forager nutrition is not only timely, as such populations are rapidly transitioning to mixed subsistence economies, but also provides a better understanding of the evolution of human life history.

The talk will begin at 12:00pm. A pizza lunch will be served at 11:45am.