Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Typically human brain development older than first thought

Date:
May 8, 2012
Source:
University of Zurich
Summary:
A large neonate brain, rapid brain growth and large frontal lobes are the typical hallmarks of human brain development. These appeared much earlier in the hominin family tree than was originally thought, as anthropologists who re-examined the Taung child’s fossil cranial sutures and compared them with other fossil skulls now demonstrate. The late fusion of the cranial sutures in the Taung child is also found in many other members of the Australopithecus africanus species and the earliest examples of the Homo genus.

Skulls of a chimpanzee (left), theTaung Australopithecus africanus child (middle), and a modern human (right), all of age around 4 years.
Credit: Computergenerierte Bilder von M. Ponce de León und Christoph Zollikofer, Universität Zürich

A large neonate brain, rapid brain growth and large frontal lobes are the typical hallmarks of human brain development. These appeared much earlier in the hominin family tree than was originally thought, as anthropologists from the University of Zurich who re-examined the Taung child's fossil cranial sutures and compared them with other fossil skulls now prove. The late fusion of the cranial sutures in the Taung child is also found in many other members of the Australopithecus africanus species and the earliest examples of the Homo genus.

The Australopithecus child's skull discovered in Taung in 1924 is an icon of human evolution. Of the neurocranium, the fossilized sediment filling has survived. The imprints of the original cerebral gyri on this rock core have fascinated paleoanthropologists from the outset and triggered much debate on the evolution of the Australopithecus brain.

Fossil cranial sutures cast in whole new light

The imprints of the cranial sutures that are also clearly visible on the rock core had long been forgotten. Now, anthropologists from the University of Zurich teamed up with researchers from Florida State University to examine their importance for brain growth in the Taung child. Sutures are bone growth fronts where the neurocranium can expand as the brain grows. Once the brain stops growing, the sutures ossify. The Taung child, who died at about four years of age, has something unusual: a suture between the two halves of the frontal bone. According to the research team's analyses, this so-called metopic suture is already ossified in most chimpanzees of the Taung child's age, but often is not in human children of the same age.

Typical brain development older than thought

As the researchers now demonstrate using computer-imaging comparisons of fossil crania, the late fusion of the metopic suture in the Taung child is not unique in fossils. It is also found in many other members of the species Australopithecus africanus, not to mention the earliest examples of our Homo genus. The three typical hallmarks of human brain development -- a large neonate brain, rapid brain growth and large frontal lobes -- therefore appeared much earlier in the hominin family tree than was originally thought.

Fast-growing brain behind late fusion

"The late fusion of the metopic suture in humans is linked to our special brain growth," explains Marcia Ponce de León, a senior lecturer at the University of Zurich's Anthropological Institute. A new-born human's brain is as big as an adult chimpanzee's. Accordingly, the cranium, which is deformed as it passes through the mother's pelvis, is also large. This is only possible because all the cranial sutures are still wide open. After birth, the human brain grows extremely quickly, especially the large frontal lobes. "The late fusion of the metopic suture must be directly linked to this," adds Ponce de León. In chimpanzees, these problems do not exist. Their neonates' heads are comparatively small, their brain growth slows shortly after birth and the frontal lobes are not as pronounced. Consequently, the metopic suture also ossifies early.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. D. Falk, C. P. E. Zollikofer, N. Morimoto, M. S. Ponce de Leon. Metopic suture of Taung (Australopithecus africanus) and its implications for hominin brain evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1119752109

Cite This Page:

University of Zurich. "Typically human brain development older than first thought." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120508094354.htm>.
University of Zurich. (2012, May 8). Typically human brain development older than first thought. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120508094354.htm
University of Zurich. "Typically human brain development older than first thought." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120508094354.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) — In a ruling attorneys for both sides agreed was a first of its kind, a Georgia appeals court said parents can be held liable for what kids put online. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

Buzz60 (Oct. 17, 2014) — Feeling down? Reach for the refrigerator, not the medicine cabinet! TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) shares some of the best foods to boost your mood. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

Newsy (Oct. 15, 2014) — Researchers claim they’ve diagnosed the first example of the disorder in a 31-year-old U.S. Navy serviceman. Video provided by Newsy
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:

More Coverage


Anthropologist Finds Explanation for Hominin Brain Evolution in Famous Fossils

May 7, 2012 — One of the world's most important fossils has a story to tell about the brain evolution of modern humans and their ancestors, according to new research. The Taung fossil -- the first ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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