Proximal femur of Australopithecus africanus from member 4, Makapansgat, South Africa

Kaye E. Reed, James W. Kitching, Frederick E. Grine, William L. Jungers, Leon Sokoloff

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Abstract

A left proximal femur (MLD 46) from Member 4, Makapansgat, South Africa is described and analyzed. It consists of the head, neck, and a small segment of the shaft that extends to just below the lesser trochanter. The femur exhibits degenerative joint disease in the form of marginal osteophyte formation and thus its taxonomic identity has been somewhat obscured. Consideration of all like‐sized mammalian femora from Makapansgat suggests that the femur is that of either a felid or hominid. Comparison of MLD 46 to femora of extent and extinct felids reveals that MLD 46 does not possess two morphological features that are characteristic of felids, namely a deep, prolonged trochanteric fossa and a high neck‐shaft angle. Simple shape variables (ratios) and multivariate analyses consistently place MLD 46 with modern and fossil hominids, and most closely align it with the australopithecines. We conclude that the femur is most reasonably attributable to Australopithecus africanus, which is the only hominid yet identified from Makapansgat. Despite its pathological condition, MLD 46 is the most complete proximal femur known for A. africanus, thereby permitting further morphological comparisons with homologues of A. afarensis and Paranthropus. Marginal osteophytes of mammalian femoral heads characteristically occur in individuals of advanced age, suggesting that MLD 46 may have lived some time with the disease. Finally, MLD 46 is considerably larger than the previously described specimen, Sts 14, from Sterkfontein Member 4. There may be as great a contrast in body size in A. africanus as there is between the large and small specimens of A. afarensis. © 1993 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Volume92
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1993
Externally publishedYes

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Keywords

  • Australopithecines
  • Bipedalism
  • Femur
  • Morphometrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology

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