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The “Nutcracker”

In 1959, paleoanthropologist Dr. Mary Leakey discovered a skull of Paranthropus boisei, our close evolutionary cousin who survived for about 1.5 million years. Her husband, Louis Leakey, aptly nicknamed this early human fossil “Nutcracker Man” because of its large teeth and robust jaw. Yet study of wear caused by food on teeth shows that Paranthropus didn’t usually crack hard foods, but more likely relied on tough foods, such as tubers and roots, to survive. This would require powerful chewing and grinding, and big teeth!