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Studies by the Strömberg Lab on evolution of grasslands published in Science

Thursday, April 13, 2023 - 11:30

A pair of papers co-authored by UW Biology Professor Caroline Strömberg and former UW postdoctoral scientist Alice Novello (currently working at Aix-Marseille University in France) was published in Science that together paint a new picture about apes, ancient Africa and the origins of humans. UW News posted a story about this research.

Many scientists had once hypothesized that the first apes to evolve in Africa more than 20 million years ago ate primarily fruit and lived within the thick, closed canopy of a nearly continent-wide forest ecosystem. Instead, the new research indicates that early apes ate a leafy diet in a more arid ecosystem of varyingly open woodlands with abundant grasses.
The findings by an international team of paleontologists, primate experts and plant scientists — including paleobotanists at the University of Washington — push the origin of tropical ecosystems dominated by C4 grasses back by more than 10 million years. In doing so, they link the emergence of C4 grasses — named for the type of photosynthesis they employ to make food from the sun’s energy — to the emergence of the forerunners to all apes living today, including humans.
Read about the research in UW News.

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