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Australopithecus africanus


The Taung Child fossil, discovered in 1924, consists of most of the skull, face, and mandible with teeth. It also has a natural endocast (imprint) of the braincase. It is about 2.5 million years old. The Taung Child is believed to have been about three years old at the time of its death. It was a creature standing 3' 6" (105 cm) weighing 20-24 pounds.

The Taung Child had a cranial capacity of 340 cm3, living mainly in a savanna habitat. Examinations of the Taung Child compared to that of an equivalent 9-year-old child suggest that Australopithecus africanus had a growth rate to adolescence which is about the same as that found in modern apes like chimpanzees rather than that of modern Homo sapiens. However, later species such as Homo ergaster/Homo erectus went through growth at rates between modern humans and apes. The evidence has mostly been based on that of Turkana boy discovered in 1984.

In early 2006 it was announced that the Taung Child was likely killed by an eagle (or similar large predatory bird). This conclusion was reached by noting similarities in the damage to the skull and eye sockets of the Taung Child to the skulls of primates known to have been killed by modern eagles. The left hand side of the endocast of the Taung child is covered in beautiful calcium carbonate crystals.


Text above: Wikipedia



taung
Australopithecus africanus, Taung child.

Circa 2 800 000 BP - 2 600 000 BP.

Cranial fragments and endocast, TAUNG 1, South Africa.

Photograph: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Facsimile, Vienna Natural History Museum, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien




taung
Australopithecus africanus, Taung child.

Cast in three parts: endocranium, face, and mandible of a 2 100 000 year old Australopithecus africanus specimen, the Taung child.

Photo: Didier Descouens
Permission: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license, not permitted to be uploaded to Facebook.
Source: Collection of the University of the Witwatersrand (Evolutionary Studies Institute), Johannesburg, South Africa. Sterkfontein cave, hominid fossil.




taung
Australopithecus africanus, Taung child mandible.

Photograph: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Facsimile, Vienna Natural History Museum, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien




taung
Australopithecus africanus, Taung child mandible, first permanent molar.

Rephotography: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Poster, Vienna Natural History Museum, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien




taung
Australopithecus africanus

The discovery of the Taung child caused a sensation.

This is the cover of the Illustrated London News for 14th February 1925.

Photo: Illustrated London News
Rephotography: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Vienna Natural History Museum, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien




taung
Australopithecus africanus

Eighty years after the 'Taung child' was first described, a spectacular theory was postulated on the cause of the individual's death.

Details of the way modern-day eagles hunt smaller monkeys helped to identify the lesions on the child's facial skull as traces of an attack by birds of prey.

Photo: Poster, Vienna Natural History Museum, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien
Rephotography: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Display, Vienna Natural History Museum, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien




Australopithecus africanus Australopithecus africanus
Australopithecus africanus

STS 5 (cranium)
Sterkfontein, South Africa
2.5 million years BP
Discovered by R. Broom and J.T. Robinson, 1947
Facsimile




The original complete skull (without upper teeth and mandible) of a 2.1 million years old specimen so-called 'Mrs. Ples' (catalogue number STS 5, Sterkfontein cave, hominid fossil number 5), discovered in South Africa .

On April 18, 1947, Broom and John T. Robinson discovered a skull belonging to a middle-aged female, (catalogue number STS 5), while blasting at Sterkfontein. Broom classified it also as Plesianthropus transvaalensis, and it was dubbed Mrs. Ples by Broom's young coworkers (though the skull is now thought to have belonged to a young male). The lack of facial projection in comparison to apes was noted by Raymond Dart (including from Taung Child), a trait in common with more advanced hominins.

It was later reclassified as Australopithecus africanus

Collection of the Transvaal Museum, Northern Flagship Institute, Pretoria, South Africa.

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2013
Source (left) and text: Western Australian Museum
Source (right): Vienna Natural History Museum, Naturhistorisches Museum Wien
Additional text: Wikipedia




africanus
Australopithecus africanus STS 5, 'Mrs Ples'

2 500 000 BP

Sterkfontein, South Africa

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: facsimile, LVR-Landesmuseum Bonn, Germany




africanus
Australopithecus africanus

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source: facsimile, LVR-Landesmuseum Bonn, Germany




africanus
Australopithecus africanus

Photo: Don Hitchcock 2015
Source and text: Facsimile, Neanderthal Museum, Mettmann, near Düsseldorf




Homo naledi timeline


Hominin timeline.

Note that Homo floresiensis has not been placed on this timeline. van den Bergh et al. (2016) indicate that it may be a form of Homo erectus.

Photo: © National Geographic, Jason Treat, NGM staff
Source: Lee Berger, University of the Witwatersrand (WITS), John Hawks, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Proximate source: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/05/homo-naledi-human-evolution-science/




References

  1. Dean, M., Smith, B., 2009: The First Humans – Origin and Early Evolution of the Genus Homo Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology, Springer Netherlands
  2. Kimbel, W., Johanson, D., and Rak, Y., 1994: The first skull and other new discoveries of Australopithecus afarensis at Hadar, EthiopiaNature, 368: 449-451.
  3. Kimbel, W., Rak, Y., and Johanson, D. , 2004: The skull of Australopithecus afarensis, New York: Oxford University Press.
  4. van den Bergh G. et al., 2016: Homo floresiensis-like fossils from the early Middle Pleistocene of Flores, Nature, 534 (7606): 245–248. doi:10.1038/nature17999. PMID 27279221.





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