Laetoli Museum Closer To Reality

Laetoli, for those who don’t know, is the home of hominin footprints that are around 3.6 million years old. The footprints have posed a preservation problem to the paleoanthropology community – something I have written about here and here. Phys.Org has a press release on the subject:

In many ways the museum is the brainchild of Musiba, a Tanzanian-born anthropologist who has been studying the footprints since 1996 and has long championed protecting them while making the collection available to the public. Currently, the footprints are preserved by keeping them buried.
“Right now the footprints are covered up and the only way to study them is to re-excavate them, which could be damaging,” he said. “We would like to excavate half of the site and build the museum over it. We can then control the ambient air, the moisture and pH levels inside to protect the prints.”
Musiba and Lockley will advise Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism on how best to protect the Laetoli Conservation Project. The $35 million project will develop the Laetoli World Heritage Site into a state-of-the-art complex that will include a museum, research facility with labs and accommodation for 35 scientists and an education center that can host 50 students and six teachers.

The new facility is expected to be completed in about five years and will have a laboratory dedicated specifically for students and researchers from CU Denver, the premier public research university in Denver.

Begging for Articles: Australopithecus sediba

Can someone send me the Australopithecus sediba papers that are published in the current issue of Science? links are below

The Vertebral Column of Australopithecus sediba

The Lower Limb and Mechanics of Walking in Australopithecus sediba

The Upper Limb of Australopithecus sediba

Mosaic Morphology in the Thorax of Australopithecus sediba

Mandibular Remains Support Taxonomic Validity of Australopithecus sediba

Dental Morphology and the Phylogenetic “Place” of Australopithecus sediba
I have them now, thanks!
My email address is on the “About” tab.

What Did Australopithecus sediba Eat?

The answer may surprise you, or not. A new paper in Nature provides some insight into Australopithecus sediba’s diet. I don’t have access to Nature but Science Daily has the press release where we learn:

The researchers concluded from their scientific tests that bark and other fracture-resistant foods were at least a seasonal part of the A. sediba diet. While bark and woody tissues had not been previously documented as a dietary component of any other ancient African hominids, such foods are consumed by many contemporary primates and contain both protein and soluble sugars. The diet of A. sediba may have been similar to that of today’s African savanna chimpanzees, Sandberg said.

Researchers performed stable isotope analysis, analyzed phytoliths trapped in dental plaque, and examined microwear on the teeth of Au. sediba to arrive at those conclusions. I have to agree with Matt Sponheimer on this:

“What fascinates me is that these individuals are oddballs,” said CU-Boulder’s Sponheimer. “I had pretty much convinced myself that after four million years ago most of our hominid kin had diets that were different from living apes, but now I am not so sure. And while our sample is too small to be conclusive, the rate at which Malapa is spewing hominid fossils makes me reasonably certain we won’t have to wait another two million years to augment our data set. “

As mentioned above I don’t have access to Nature so can some one send me a copy of the article? My email address is on the “about” tab and the article can be found at DOI: 10.1038/nature11185.

The Metopic Suture of Taung

A recent article in PNAS looks at the metopic suture on the Taung endocast. Before discussing the article a few words are in order about the frontal bone. Continue reading

East African Australopithecines: More than One Species?

The fact that two species of Australopithecus coexisted, more or less, in South Africa has been known for years. One of the more interesting South African specimens (Stw 573) is dated to somewhere between 3.5 and 3 million years. It has a divergent big toe. As does a new partial foot found in East Africa. The foot is somewhere around 3.46 MYA. Only a partial foot was found so the specimen has not been attributed to a species. The find is reported in Nature. I don’t have access to Nature, and would be grateful if someone could send me a copy of the article. I have the paper now, thanks!

Begging For Articles: Asian Australopithecines

Can someone with access send me the following articles:

A critical analysis of claims for the existence of Southeast Asian australopithecines, Journal of Human Evolution Volume 26, Issue 1, Pages 3–21

Meganthropus, australopithecines and hominids, American Journal of Physical Anthropology Volume 11, Issue 1, pages 1–38, DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.1330110112

Further remarks on the relationship between “Meganthropus” and australopithecines, American Journal of Physical Anthropology Volume 13, Issue 3, pages 429–445, DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.1330130304

My email address is on the about page. Continue reading

Know Your Hominin: A. L. 822-1

A. L. 822-1 was discovered in 2000 at Hadar, Ethipia. It is attributed to Australopithecus afarensis and is, at the time of discovery, the only complete skull of a female A. afarensis. The skull dates to approximately 3.1 MYA and is one of three that preserves both a cranium and a mandible (the others being A.L. 444-2 and A.L. 417-1).


Kimbel and Rak (2010) The cranial base of Australopithecus afarensis: new insights from the female skull. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 2010 365, 3365-3376, doi: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0070

Kimbel (2009) Australopithecus afarensis and the Mosaic Evolution of the Hominin Cranial Base. Note: This is an audio presentation given at a seminar hosted by the Royal Society in 2009.


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