Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Taung Child's brain development not human-like? CT scan casts doubt on similarity to that of modern humans

Date:
August 25, 2014
Source:
University of the Witwatersrand
Summary:
By subjecting the skull of the famous Taung Child to the latest CT scan technology, researchers are now casting doubt on theories that Australopithecus africanus shows the same cranial adaptations found in modern human infants and toddlers.

This is the Taung Child fossil at the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits University.
Credit: WITS UNIVERSITY

The Taung Child, South Africa's premier hominin discovered 90 years ago by Wits University Professor Raymond Dart, continues to shed light on human origins. By subjecting the skull of the first australopith discovered to the latest technologies in the Wits University Microfocus X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) facility, researchers are now casting doubt on theories that Australopithecus africanus shows the same cranial adaptations found in modern human infants and toddlers -- in effect disproving current support for the idea that this early hominin shows infant brain development in the prefrontal region similar to that of modern humans.

The results have been published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on Aug. 25, in an article titled "New high resolution CT data of the Taung partial cranium and endocast and their bearing on metopism and hominin brain evolution."

The Taung Child has historical and scientific importance in the fossil record as the first and best example of early hominin brain evolution, and theories have been put forward that it exhibits key cranial adaptations found in modern human infants and toddlers.

To test the ancientness of this evolutionary adaptation, Dr Kristian J. Carlson, Senior Researcher from the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, and colleagues, Professor Ralph L. Holloway from Columbia University and Douglas C. Broadfield from Florida Atlantic University, performed an in silico dissection of the Taung fossil using high-resolution computed tomography.

"A recent study has described the roughly 3 million-year-old fossil, thought to have belonged to a 3 to 4-year-old, as having a persistent metopic suture and open anterior fontanelle, two features that facilitate post-natal brain growth in human infants when their disappearance is delayed," said Carlson.

Comparisons with the existing hominin fossil record and chimpanzee variation do not support this evolutionary scenario.

Citing deficiencies in how the Taung fossil material has been recently assessed, the researchers suggest physical evidence does not incontrovertibly link features of the Taung skull, or its endocast, to early prefrontal lobe expansion, a brain region implicated in many human behaviors.

The authors also debate the previously offered theoretical basis for this adaptation in A. africanus. By refuting the presence of these features in the Taung Child, the researchers dispute whether these structures were selectively advantageous in hominin evolution, particularly in australopiths.

Thus, results of the new study show that there is still no evidence for this kind of skull adaptation that evolved before Homo, nor is there evidence for a link between such skull characteristics and the proposed accompanying early prefrontal lobe expansion, Carlson said.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Ralph L. Holloway, Douglas C. Broadfield, and Kristian J. Carlson. New high-resolution computed tomography data of the Taung partial cranium and endocast and their bearing on metopism and hominin brain evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1402905111

Cite This Page:

University of the Witwatersrand. "Taung Child's brain development not human-like? CT scan casts doubt on similarity to that of modern humans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140825152556.htm>.
University of the Witwatersrand. (2014, August 25). Taung Child's brain development not human-like? CT scan casts doubt on similarity to that of modern humans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140825152556.htm
University of the Witwatersrand. "Taung Child's brain development not human-like? CT scan casts doubt on similarity to that of modern humans." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140825152556.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) A 2,000 year-old Pre-Inca cloak that is believed to represent an agricultural calendar of the Paracas culture is on display in Lima. Duration: 00:39 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) Considered lost for over two centuries, the original manuscript of one of the most famous works of Mozart's Sonata in A major has been uncovered in a library in Budapest. Duration: 01:04 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Underground Art Reveals WW1 Soldiers' Hopes and Fears

Underground Art Reveals WW1 Soldiers' Hopes and Fears

AFP (Sep. 25, 2014) American doctor and photographer Jeff Gusky reveals the underground quarries used by the soldiers of World War One, and the artwork they left behind which illustrates their hopes and fears. Duration: 02:15 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Ice Age Wooly Mammoth Remains for Sale

Raw: Ice Age Wooly Mammoth Remains for Sale

AP (Sep. 23, 2014) A rare, well-preserved skeleton of a woolly mammoth is going on sale at Summers Place Auctions hope the 11.5-foot tall, almost intact specimen will fetch between $245,000 to $409,000. (Sept. 23) Video provided by AP
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