Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Not just skin deep: CT study of early humans reveals evolutionary relationships

Date:
September 20, 2011
Source:
University College London
Summary:
CT scans of fossil skull fragments may help researchers settle a long-standing debate about the evolution of Africa's Australopithecus, a key ancestor of modern humans that died out some 1.4 million years ago. The study explains how CT scans shed new light on a classic evolutionary puzzle by providing crucial information about the internal anatomy of the face.

Pictured are a photograph and CT scan of Sts 5, the most well-preserved specimen of Australopithecus africanus.
Credit: Images courtesy of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History, formerly the Transvaal Museum.

CT scans of fossil skull fragments may help researchers settle a long-standing debate about the evolution of Africa's Australopithecus, a key ancestor of modern humans that died out some 1.4 million years ago. The study, to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, explains how CT scans shed new light on a classic evolutionary puzzle by providing crucial information about the internal anatomy of the face.

Related Articles


For decades scientists have disagreed about the significance of facial features shared by a number of Australopithecus species, and in particular two bony columns known as "anterior pillars" that extend up from the canine teeth and bracket the nasal opening.

Dr Brian Villmoare (University College London and The George Washington University) and Professor William Kimbel (Arizona State University) analysed CT scans of fossil skull fragments from five Australopithecus species and found that beneath the skin the internal structure of the anterior pillars is quite different for different species. According to the authors, South Africa's A. robustus and East Africa's A. boisei had solid columns of dense, spongy bone tissue and were probably sister species, while A. africanus (also from South Africa) probably evolved in parallel as its pillars are simply hollow columns of bone.

The authors argue that these structural differences show that anterior pillars evolved via different pathways in different species. The findings challenge long-standing theories that similar external facial features represent shared traits inherited from a common ancestor, and suggest instead that external similarities in South Africa's A. africanus and A. robustus were due to parallel evolution.

"We believe that the detailed similarities in the internal anatomy of the face strongly supports the hypothesis that there was a single evolutionary branch of 'robust australopithecines', and that the A. africanus and A. boisei forms both shared a common ancestor," says Dr Villmoare. "The external similarity of the anterior pillar in other Australopith species may be related to convergence on a similar dietary niche, but does not seem to indicate shared ancestry."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Brian A. Villmoare, William H. Kimbel. CT-based study of internal structure of the anterior pillar in extinct hominins and its implications for the phylogeny of robust Australopithecus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1105844108

Cite This Page:

University College London. "Not just skin deep: CT study of early humans reveals evolutionary relationships." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110919151322.htm>.
University College London. (2011, September 20). Not just skin deep: CT study of early humans reveals evolutionary relationships. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110919151322.htm
University College London. "Not just skin deep: CT study of early humans reveals evolutionary relationships." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110919151322.htm (accessed November 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pygmy Marmoset Getting a Toothbrush Massage Is the Cutest

Pygmy Marmoset Getting a Toothbrush Massage Is the Cutest

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) This rescued pygmy marmoset named Ninita is obsessed with her toothbrush. It's cuteness overload, and Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the amazing video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Are Chocolate Makers So Worried?

Why Are Chocolate Makers So Worried?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Nov. 19, 2014) Two big chocolate producers are warning the popular treat could run out by 2020 because people are eating it faster than farmers can grow cocoa. Ciara Lee reports Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tiny Hamster Eating Thanksgiving Meal Breaks the Internet

Tiny Hamster Eating Thanksgiving Meal Breaks the Internet

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) A tiny hamster and a bunny and rat enjoy a tiny Thanksgiving meal where they stuff themselves to the brim. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the cute video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Giant Panda at Toronto Zoo Loves Somersaulting in the Snow

Giant Panda at Toronto Zoo Loves Somersaulting in the Snow

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) A giant panda at the Toronto Zoo named Da Mao is celebrating the northeast snowfall by playing and tumbling in the snow in his outdoor enclosure. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins