Near an old mining town in Central Europe, known for its attractive turquoise-blue quarry water, lay Rudapithecus. For 10 million years, the fossilized ape waited in Rudabánya, Hungary, to add its story to the origins of how humans evolved.
The fruit of Rudabánya is a pelvis – including the most pointed bones of a skeleton, but one that is rarely preserved. An international team led by Carol Ward at the University of Missouri examined the new pelvis and discovered that human bipedalism – or the ability to move people on two legs – could have a deeper origin. ancestor than previously thought.
The Rudapithecus pelvis was discovered by David Begun, a professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto who invited Ward to work with him to study this fossil. Begun's work on the bones of the feet, jaws and teeth has shown that Rudapithecus is a relative of modern Africans and people, a surprise given its location in Europe. But information on posture and locomotion is limited, so finding a pelvis is important.
"Rudapithecus is a bit like a monkey and probably moves to branches like apes today – holding its body upright and climbing its arms." Said Ward, a curator who is known as the Professor of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences at the MU School of Medicine and leading author of the study. "However, it differs from modern great apes by having a more flexible lower back, which means that when Rudapithecus drops to the ground, it can have the ability to stand upright just like people do. .This evidence supports the idea that instead of asking why human ancestors stand out from all four, perhaps we should ask why our ancestors did not fall to all four in the first place. place. "
Modern apes of Africa have long pelvis and short lower backs because they are such large animals, which is one reason why they usually walk on all fours when on the ground. Humans have longer, more flexible lower backs, allowing them to stand upright and walk on both legs, a hallmark of human evolution. Ward said if people evolved from an African monkey-like body, major changes to extend the lower back and shorten the pelvis would be necessary. If people evolved from an ancestor like Rudapithecus, this move would be more straightforward.
"We have determined that Rudapithecus will have a more flexible torso than today's African apes because it is smaller – just about the size of a medium dog," Ward said. "This is significant because our finding supports the idea that other evidence suggests that human ancestors may not have been as built as modern African apes." fossil pelvis from Rudapithecus. The pelvis is among the most informative bones of a skeleton, but one that is rarely preserved. Credit: Carol Ward
Ward collaborated with Begun to study the pelvis with MU alumna Ashley Hammond, Assistant Curator of Biological Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History, and J. Michael Plavcan, a professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas . Because the fossil is not 100% complete, the team uses new 3-D modeling techniques to automatically complete its shape, then comparing their models to modern animals. Ward said their next step was to conduct a 3-D analysis of other fossilized parts of Rudapithecus's body to assemble a more complete picture of how it moved, giving more insight into the ancestor of African apes and people.
Human ancestors are & # 39; grounded, & # 39; new review shows
Carol V. Ward et al, A late Miocene hominid partial pelvis from Hungary, Journal of Human Evolution (2019). DOI: 10.1016 / j.jhevol.2019.102645
Rare 10 million-year-old fossils do not provide new insights into human evolution (2019, September 17)
acquired on 17th September 2019
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