Well, now we know why the publication date of the book on Ethiopian Homo erectus keeps getting pushed back. Kambiz has the story on the new female H. erectus pelvis. Most of the accounts I have seen focus on the birthing babies aspect – a hot research topic at the moment, but for my money the interesting part (and I say this without having read the paper) is this from National Geographic:
Dan Lieberman is an anthropologist at Harvard University who was also not involved in the study.
“This [new] pelvis is a nice addition to the fossil record,” Lieberman said. But he added that the discovery “raises many more questions than it answers.”
For example, it was known that H. erectus was probably sexually dimorphic, meaning males and females had different body sizes and shapes. The new fossil suggests the size difference may have been akin to that of gorillas, where males are much bigger than females–an idea Lieberman isn’t sold on.
“For this pelvis to be a female H. erectus, then we need to accommodate really considerable sexual dimorphism with very tall and narrow males and very short and wide females,” Lieberman said. “I need to be convinced.”
The pelvis belonged to a female with an estimated stature of about 4’5″ indicating a large amount of sexual dimorphism. This dovetails quite nicely with the small size of KNM-ER 42700. On the other hand, Christopher Ruff points out that this could be a H. habilis pelvis.
I can’t wait until the paper comes out.
Update 1: Kambiz was kind enough to send me the article along with the write up by Gibbons. I also downloaded the supplementary material (which is always open access). As soon as I work my way through it I will have more to say.