Jan 7, 2010: How much brainpower does it take to harvest shellfish?

Oyster World

If you haven't already read Rowan Jacobsen's newest book "The Living Shore," we highly recommend that you do. An article that appeared online a couple of weeks ago picks up an idea Rowan discusses in his book, which is that oysters played a pivotal role in human evolution.  Rowan put forth the "big brain" theory, or the idea that the Omega 3 fatty acids present in shellfish are what allowed humans to develop big brains. But according to the Boing Boing article, that's not the only theory out there:
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. Ancient humans would have had to be able to do some pretty complex thinking about concepts like time, Marean said. They would have to be able to make connections between unrelated things, like phases of the moon, tides and when shellfish were most plentiful. And they'd have to be able to communicate all that to other people. From Marean's perspective, big brains enabled a small group of humans to make the switch to a shellfish diet--an adaptation that allowed them to survive a climactic upheaval that wiped out most of their peers.
Hmm... which theory is correct? Either way, oysters are saviors of the human species, so, being oyster sellers, we think they're both pretty groovy.  But as oyster pickers and farmers, and in the interest of self-aggrandizement, we'll have to go with the "it takes a genius to pick an oyster" theory, not the "picking oysters is so easy even a caveman can do it" version. Sorry Rowan.

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