Hyena Coprolites And Hominin Hair

National Geographic has an interesting story on hair found in hyena coprolites. The coprolites were in strata that date to about 195,000-257,000 years ago.

From National Geographic:

Backwell and her colleagues used tweezers to extract 40 fossilized hairs resembling glass needles from one of the hyena coprolites.
Scanning-electron-microscope images revealed wavy bands of scales on the hairs–a pattern typical of modern primates, with human hair being the closest match.

Unfortunately, DNA could not be extracted from the hair. As to what species the hair belongs to Homo heidelbergensis and H. sapiens are the likely candidates.
A paper on the subject is in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

6 Responses

  1. I suppose scavenging could explain this just as easily as predation, but it’s cool to think that the latter was happening!

  2. Probably, I wouldn’t rule predation out. Hyenas do hunt.

  3. Hmmmm, we were hyena poop. One can only hope they gave the hyena indigestion. ;o)

  4. Well, I have heard that somebody found fossilized Neandertal poop a few years back. No DNA that they could use, in that that, AFAIK.
    Anne G

  5. I was disappointed that they didn’t know the species of hyena. I was hoping for Pachycrocuta brevirostris, the lion-sized giant, but neither the continent nor the time frame of the fossils was right. I guess we’ll have to await more findings, but predation seems as likely an explanation as scavenging, since modern-day spotted hyenas are known to prey on humans.

  6. Lions and hyenas both scavenge about half their food – or steal it from other predators – and hunt about half of it. It’s all in the Public Relations.

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