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      Taxonomic identification of Lower Pleistocene fossil hominins based on distal humeral diaphyseal cross-sectional shape



      PeerJ Inc.

      Humerus, Diaphysis, Paranthropus, Early Homo, Geometric morphometrics, Postcranial skeleton, Taxonomy

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          The coexistence of multiple hominin species during the Lower Pleistocene has long presented a challenge for taxonomic attribution of isolated postcrania. Although fossil humeri are well-suited for studies of hominin postcranial variation due to their relative abundance, humeral articular morphology has thus far been of limited value for differentiating Paranthropus from Homo. On the other hand, distal humeral diaphyseal shape has been used to justify such generic distinctions at Swartkrans. The potential utility of humeral diaphyseal shape merits larger-scale quantitative analysis, particularly as it permits the inclusion of fragmentary specimens lacking articular morphology. This study analyzes shape variation of the distal humeral diaphysis among fossil hominins (c. 2-1 Ma) to test the hypothesis that specimens can be divided into distinct morphotypes. Coordinate landmarks were placed on 3D laser scans to quantify cross-sectional shape at a standardized location of the humeral diaphysis (proximal to the olecranon fossa) for a variety of fossil hominins and extant hominids. The fossil sample includes specimens attributed to species based on associated craniodental remains. Mantel tests of matrix correlation were used to assess hypotheses about morphometric relationships among the fossils by comparing empirically-derived Procrustes distance matrices to hypothetical model matrices. Diaphyseal shape variation is consistent with the hypothesis of three distinct morphotypes ( Paranthropus, Homo erectus, non- erectus early Homo) in both eastern and southern Africa during the observed time period. Specimens attributed to non- erectus early Homo are unique among hominids with respect to the degree of relative anteroposterior flattening, while H. erectus humeri exhibit morphology more similar to that of modern humans. In both geographic regions, Paranthropus is characterized by a morphology that is intermediate with respect to those morphological features that differentiate the two forms of early Homo. This study demonstrates the utility of the humeral diaphysis for taxonomic identification of isolated postcranial remains and further documents a high degree of postcranial diversity in early Homo.

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          Who's afraid of the big bad Wolff?: "Wolff's law" and bone functional adaptation.

          "Wolff's law" is a concept that has sometimes been misrepresented, and frequently misunderstood, in the anthropological literature. Although it was originally formulated in a strict mathematical sense that has since been discredited, the more general concept of "bone functional adaptation" to mechanical loading (a designation that should probably replace "Wolff's law") is supported by much experimental and observational data. Objections raised to earlier studies of bone functional adaptation have largely been addressed by more recent and better-controlled studies. While the bone morphological response to mechanical strains is reduced in adults relative to juveniles, claims that adult morphology reflects only juvenile loadings are greatly exaggerated. Similarly, while there are important genetic influences on bone development and on the nature of bone's response to mechanical loading, variations in loadings themselves are equally if not more important in determining variations in morphology, especially in comparisons between closely related individuals or species. The correspondence between bone strain patterns and bone structure is variable, depending on skeletal location and the general mechanical environment (e.g., distal vs. proximal limb elements, cursorial vs. noncursorial animals), so that mechanical/behavioral inferences based on structure alone should be limited to corresponding skeletal regions and animals with similar basic mechanical designs. Within such comparisons, traditional geometric parameters (such as second moments of area and section moduli) still give the best available estimates of in vivo mechanical competence. Thus, when employed with appropriate caution, these features may be used to reconstruct mechanical loadings and behavioral differences within and between past populations. Copyright 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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            Human evolution. Evolution of early Homo: an integrated biological perspective.

            Integration of evidence over the past decade has revised understandings about the major adaptations underlying the origin and early evolution of the genus Homo. Many features associated with Homo sapiens, including our large linear bodies, elongated hind limbs, large energy-expensive brains, reduced sexual dimorphism, increased carnivory, and unique life history traits, were once thought to have evolved near the origin of the genus in response to heightened aridity and open habitats in Africa. However, recent analyses of fossil, archaeological, and environmental data indicate that such traits did not arise as a single package. Instead, some arose substantially earlier and some later than previously thought. From ~2.5 to 1.5 million years ago, three lineages of early Homo evolved in a context of habitat instability and fragmentation on seasonal, intergenerational, and evolutionary time scales. These contexts gave a selective advantage to traits, such as dietary flexibility and larger body size, that facilitated survival in shifting environments. Copyright © 2014, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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              PAST: paleontologocal statistics software package for education and data analysis.


                Author and article information

                PeerJ Inc. (San Francisco, USA )
                7 July 2015
                : 3
                Biology Program, Stockton University , Galloway, NJ, USA
                © 2015 Lague

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.

                Funded by: National Science Foundation
                Award ID: BCS- 0647557
                Funded by: Wenner-Gren Foundation
                Funded by: Leakey Foundation
                This research was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (BCS- 0647557), and grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the Leakey Foundation to JM Plavcan & CV Ward. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Evolutionary Studies


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