Affordable Access

Comparative context of Plio-Pleistocene hominin brain evolution.

Authors
  • Elton, S
  • Bishop, L C
  • Wood, B
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of human evolution
Publication Date
Jul 01, 2001
Volume
41
Issue
1
Pages
1–27
Identifiers
PMID: 11414771
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

One of the distinguishing features of Homo sapiens is its absolutely and relatively large brain. This feature is also seen in less extreme form in some fossil Homo species. However, are increases in brain size during the Plio-Pleistocene only seen in Homo, and is brain enlargement among Plio-Pleistocene primates confined to hominins? This study examines evidence for changes in brain size for species and lineage samples of three synchronic East African fossil primate groups, the two hominin genera Homo and Paranthropus, and the cercopithecoid genus Theropithecus. Hominin endocranial capacity data were taken from the literature, but it was necessary to develop an indirect method for estimating the endocranial volume of Theropithecus. Bivariate and multivariate regression equations relating measured endocranial volume to three external cranial dimensions were developed from a large (ca. 340) sample of modern African cercopithecoids. These equations were used to estimate the endocranial volumes of 20 Theropithecus specimens from the African Plio-Pleistocene. Spearman's rho and the Hubert nonparametric test were used to search for evidence of temporal trends in both the hominin and Theropithecus data. Endocranial volume apparently increased over time in both Homo and Paranthropus boisei, but there was no evidence for temporal trends in the endocranial volume of Theropithecus. Thus, hypotheses which suggest a mix of environmental, social, dietary, or other factors as catalysts for increasing brain in Plio-Pleistocene primates must accommodate evidence of brain enlargement in both Homo and Paranthropus, and explain why this phenomenon appears to be restricted to hominins.

Report this publication

Statistics

Seen <100 times