A juvenile early hominin skeleton from Dikika, Ethiopia

Zeresenay Alemseged, Fred Spoor, William Kimbel, René Bobe, Denis Geraads, Denné Reed, Jonathan G. Wynn

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Abstract

Understanding changes in ontogenetic development is central to the study of human evolution. With the exception of Neanderthals, the growth patterns of fossil hominins have not been studied comprehensively because the fossil record currently lacks specimens that document both cranial and postcranial development at young ontogenetic stages. Here we describe a well-preserved 3.3-million-year-old juvenile partial skeleton of Australopithecus afarensis discovered in the Dikika research area of Ethiopia. The skull of the approximately three-year-old presumed female shows that most features diagnostic of the species are evident even at this early stage of development. The find includes many previously unknown skeletal elements from the Pliocene hominin record, including a hyoid bone that has a typical African ape morphology. The foot and other evidence from the lower limb provide clear evidence for bipedal locomotion, but the gorilla-like scapula and long and curved manual phalanges raise new questions about the importance of arboreal behaviour in the A. afarensis locomotor repertoire.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)296-301
Number of pages6
JournalNature
Volume443
Issue number7109
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 21 2006

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    Alemseged, Z., Spoor, F., Kimbel, W., Bobe, R., Geraads, D., Reed, D., & Wynn, J. G. (2006). A juvenile early hominin skeleton from Dikika, Ethiopia. Nature, 443(7109), 296-301. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature05047