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Paranthropus yields mosaic arm bone.

Paranthropus yields mosaic arm bone

Between 1979 and 1983, anthropologists excavated the remains of numerous hominids (the evolutionary family that includes modern humans) in an underground cave complex in South Africa. Most of the 1.8-million-year-old fossils apparently belong to Paranthropus, a group of hominids whose evolution paralleled that of direct human ancestors but who became extinct around 1 million years ago.

Hand bones recovered at the site suggest Paranthropus had human-like digits as capable of making and using tools as the earliest truly human species (SN: 5/28/88, p.344). A nearly complete lower arm bone -- the radius -- has now been identified among the cave remains by Randall L. Susman and Frederick E. Grine of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. The bone is in three pieces -- two ends and a large section of shaft -- found close to one another. They almost certainly represent a single Paranthropus radius, Susman says.

The radius contains a mosaic of ape-like and human-like features, he notes. Its head, where the radius attaches to the upper arm bone, is mushroom-shaped with a shallow rim. This pattern occurs in the radii of modern apes but not in those of modern humans.

On the other hand, the shaft and distal end of the Paranthropus radius, where it attached to the wrist bones, are clearly more human-like, Susman contends. This is not surprising, considering the previous evidence that the ancient hominid had a "precision grip," he adds.

The mosaic pattern of features in the Paranthropus radius is not matched in any modern apes or humans, Susman says.
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Title Annotation:Anthropology
Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 22, 1989
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