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Sacrum morphology supports taxonomic heterogeneity of Australopithecus africanus at Sterkfontein Member 4


Fornai, Cinzia; Krenn, Viktoria; Mitteröcker, Philipp; Webb, Nicole; Haeusler, Martin (2020). Sacrum morphology supports taxonomic heterogeneity of Australopithecus africanus at Sterkfontein Member 4. Research square:Epub ahead of print.

Abstract

The presence of multiple <jats:italic>Australopithecus</jats:italic> species at Sterkfontein Member 4, South Africa (2.07 to 2.61 Ma) is highly contentious. Quantitative assessments of craniodental and postcranial variability remain inconclusive. Using geometric morphometrics, we compared the sacrum of the small-bodied, presumed female subadult <jats:italic>Australopithecus africanus</jats:italic> skeleton Sts 14 and the large, alleged male adult StW 431 against a geographically diverse sample of modern humans, and two species for each of the genera <jats:italic>Gorilla</jats:italic>, <jats:italic>Pan</jats:italic> and <jats:italic>Pongo</jats:italic>. The probabilities of sampling morphologies as distinct as Sts 14 and StW 431 from a single species ranged from 1.3 to 2.5% for the human sample, and from 0.0 to 4.5% for the ape sample, depending on the analysis performed. Neither differences in developmental or geologic age nor sexual dimorphism could account for the differences between StW 431 and Sts 14 sacra. These findings support earlier claims of taxonomic heterogeneity at Sterkfontein Member 4.

Abstract

The presence of multiple <jats:italic>Australopithecus</jats:italic> species at Sterkfontein Member 4, South Africa (2.07 to 2.61 Ma) is highly contentious. Quantitative assessments of craniodental and postcranial variability remain inconclusive. Using geometric morphometrics, we compared the sacrum of the small-bodied, presumed female subadult <jats:italic>Australopithecus africanus</jats:italic> skeleton Sts 14 and the large, alleged male adult StW 431 against a geographically diverse sample of modern humans, and two species for each of the genera <jats:italic>Gorilla</jats:italic>, <jats:italic>Pan</jats:italic> and <jats:italic>Pongo</jats:italic>. The probabilities of sampling morphologies as distinct as Sts 14 and StW 431 from a single species ranged from 1.3 to 2.5% for the human sample, and from 0.0 to 4.5% for the ape sample, depending on the analysis performed. Neither differences in developmental or geologic age nor sexual dimorphism could account for the differences between StW 431 and Sts 14 sacra. These findings support earlier claims of taxonomic heterogeneity at Sterkfontein Member 4.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, not_refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Evolutionary Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2020
Deposited On:16 Nov 2020 16:45
Last Modified:16 Nov 2020 16:46
Publisher:Research Square
ISSN:2693-5015
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.21203/rs.3.rs-72859/v1

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