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Analyzing the long bones of early human fossils

Research Achievements

Analyzing the long bones of early human fossils

Trainee Melissa Tallman defended her CUNY PhD dissertation in May, analyzing the long bones of early human fossils using a geometric morphometric approach. The most informative regions are the distal femur, tibia, radius, and humerus, and the proximal femur and ulna.There are few postcranial characters that can be tied to specific taxa. Among hominins, Paranthropus robustus and Homo habilis (sensu lato) had the most distinctive patterns of morphology: both of these had more ape-like distal humeri and H. habilis also had an ape-like proximal ulna. Most of the hominins had a human-like proximal femur coupled with an ape-like greater trochanter. There was a clear difference in the way that human and ape fore- and hindlimbs covary; Plio-Pleistocene hominins had patterns of covariance that were most similar to modern humans. The overall pattern of morphological change is one of a relatively modern body plan early on with apparent "reversals" in Paranthropus and H. habilis.