The first ever vegetarian has been found and as it turns out, he was initially a meat eater.
In a new study published on PLOS ONE, professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Toronto Mississauga, Robert Reisz, shows that a newly discovered species called Eocasea martinis was the first herbivore on Earth. Its fossilized skeleton was discovered in what is now Kansas and shows that it lived 300 million years ago, almost 80 million years before the age of dinosaurs.
According to the study, the pre-historic animal ate small insects and animals and measured about 6.5 inches. After comparing its skeleton to other related animals, researchers concluded it belonged to a group that evolved into modern mammals. The Eocasea was the most primitive of the group, all others after it evolving into herbivores.
“The evolution of herbivory was revolutionary to life on land because it meant terrestrial vertebrates could directly access the vast resources provided by terrestrial plants,” explains Reisz. “These herbivores, in turn, became a major food resource for large land predators.”
As they evolved to eat a plant based diet, the animals also became bigger, some of them getting as heavy as 1100 pounds and it seems just like a modern day vegetarian, set the example for others.
“When the ability to feed on plants occurred after Eocasea, it seems as though a threshold was passed,” Reisz said. “Multiple groups kept re-evolving the same herbivorous traits.”
Three hundred million years later and we’re still evolving with humans following the steps of the Eocasea. The process might be slow but we’re getting there!