Extended parental care is considered one of the hallmarks of human evolution. A stunning new research result published today in Nature reveals for the first time the parenting habits of one of our earliest extinct ancestors.
Analysis of more than two-million-year-old teeth from Australopithecus africanus fossils found in South Africa have revealed that infants were breastfed continuously from birth to about one year of age. Nursing appears to continue in a cyclical pattern in the early years for infants; seasonal changes and food shortages caused the mother to supplement gathered foods with breastmilk. An international research team led by Dr. Renaud Joannes-Boyau of Southern Cross University, and by Dr. Luca Fiorenza and Dr. Justin W. Adams from Monash University, published the details of their research into the species in Nature today.
“For the first time, we gained new insight into the way our ancestors raised their young, and how mothers had to supplement solid food intake with breastmilk when resources were scarce,” said geochemist Dr. Joannes-Boyau from the Geoarchaeology and Archaeometry Research Group (GARG) at Southern Cross University.