A juvenile early hominin skeleton from Dikika, Ethiopia.

Bibliographic Collection: 
MOCA Reference, APE
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Alemseged, Zeresenay; Spoor, Fred; Kimbel, William H; Bobe, René; Geraads, Denis; Reed, Denné; Wynn, Jonathan G
Year of Publication: 2006
Journal: Nature
Volume: 443
Issue: 7109
Pagination: 296-301
Date Published: 2006 Sep 21
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 1476-4687
Keywords: Aging, Animals, Ethiopia, Female, Fossils, Gait, History, Ancient, Hominidae, Humans, Sex Characteristics, Skeleton, Skull, Time Factors

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.

DOI: 10.1038/nature05047
Alternate Journal: Nature