Human Evolution @ UCL


Fossil hominin metatarsal bones of Australopithecus, Paranthropus and Homo naledi examined

2 March 2017

Humans, unlike African apes, have relatively robust fifth metatarsals (Mt5) presumably reflecting substantial weight-bearing and stability function in the lateral column of the former.

Metatarsal Bone and Plot When this morphological difference emerged during hominin evolution is debated. Here the internal diaphyseal structure of Mt5s attributed to Australopithecus (from Sterkfontein), Paranthropus (from Swartkrans), and Homo (from Olduvai, Dmanisi, and Dinaledi) are analysed and placed in the context of human and African ape Mt5 internal diaphyseal structure. 'Whole-shaft' properties were evaluated from 17 cross sections sampling 25% to 75% diaphyseal length using computed tomography. To assess structural patterns, scaled cortical bone thicknesses (sCBT) and scaled second moments of area (sSMA) were visualized and evaluated through penalized discriminant analyses. While the majority of fossil hominin Mt5s exhibited ape-like sCBT, their sSMA were comparatively more human-like. Human-like functional loading of the lateral column existed in at least some fossil hominins, although perhaps surprisingly not in hominins from Dmanisi or Dinaledi.

Adaptation to bipedal gait and fifth metatarsal structural properties in Australopithecus, Paranthropus, and Homo

Mark R. Dowdeswell, Tea Jashashvili, Biren A. Patel, Renaud Lebrun, Randall L. Susman, David Lordkipanidze, Kristian J. Carlson

DOI: 10.1016/j.crpv.2016.10.003