Magazine article Science News

Hominoid Lineages and Keystone Clues

Magazine article Science News

Hominoid Lineages and Keystone Clues

Article excerpt

Hominoid lineages and keystone clues

When attempting to distinguish betweenearly members of the human line and their now-extinct relatives known as the robust australopithecines, does the nose know?

In 1985, Todd R. Olson of the CityUniversity of New York Medical School answered in the affirmative. Connecting the nasal bones, he reported, was a keystone-shaped pattern of sutures that characterizes only robust australopithecines, also known as Paranthropus, as well two other distinct suture patterns marking modern apes and humans. He used these patterns to label the more than 3-million-year-old skull of a child found at Hadar, Ethiopia, as a member of the Paranthropus line, and another infant skull from about 2 million years ago --the Taung child--as a member of the Homo line.

But Olson's analysis is now being challenged.According to Robert B. Eckhardt of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, the paranthropine keystone pattern occurs on about 8 percent of modern ape skulls. This configuration of sutures appears to be a normal variation in facial structure and part of the common heritage of hominoids, or apes and humans, and is not confined to robust australopithecines, concludes Eckhardt in the July 23 NATURE.

He examined the crania of 66 chimpanzees,99 gorillas and 108 orangutans obtained from the U.S. National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. …

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