How Oysters May Have Saved the Human Race

oystershucking2.jpg

National Archives and Records Administration

A hundred years ago, oysters and shellfish were a staple of a working person's diet in New York and on the east coast; they were cheap, plentiful and healthy. Maggie Koerth-Baker of BoingBoing writes that a couple of hundred thousand years ago they were too; in fact, they may have saved humanity from starvation in a world of changing climate. Conditions were so bad that the population of breeding humans may have been reduced to as little as 1,000, but Professor Curtis Marean, Ph.D suggests that a shellfish diet kept them going.

oysters-newyork.jpg

Not South Africa 164,000 years ago
"They're a great source of protein," he said. "And shellfish are immune to colder ocean temperatures. In fact, when the water gets colder, those populations go up."

They are also a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids that are reputed to help build big brains. So did the shellfish diet make our ancestors smarter? Dr. Marean doesn't think so. Maggie Koerth-Baker writes:

Marean thinks the big brain came first. You can't just walk down to the beach and score yourself some sweet shellfish action (at least, not enough to sustain a society) without being pretty bright.

More in BoingBoing

Could we do this again? Not likely.
85% of World's Oyster Reefs Already Gone, Many Functionally Extinct
After A 90 Percent Oyster Decline, Can North Carolina's Oyster Population Be The Comeback Kid?
Ocean Acidification Means Hard Times Ahead For Shellfish
Ocean Acidification Causing Some Shells to Grow Thicker

How Oysters May Have Saved the Human Race
A hundred years ago, oysters and shellfish were a staple of a working person's diet in New York and on the east coast; they were cheap, plentiful and healthy. Maggie Koerth-Baker of BoingBoing writes that a