Mandibular ramus morphology and species identification in Australopithecus sediba
Keywords:species, Australopithecus, Malapa, Homo
The site of Malapa, South Africa, has produced fossil evidence from multiple individuals of Australopithecus sediba including the partial skeletons designated as MH1 (holotype) and MH2 (paratype). A recent article in this Journal presented the hypothesis that MH1 and MH2 are not one species but instead represent two different genera: Australopithecus and Homo, respectively. Here we briefly evaluate this claim. We review the evidence from across the skeleton that demonstrates that MH1 and MH2 represent a single species, and we highlight other fossil samples that show the same pattern of mandibular ramus variation as observed in MH1 and MH2. The evidence shows that there is no reason to separate MH1 and MH2 into different species or genera based upon mandibular ramus morphology. This case illustrates how misleading small fragments of anatomy can be, why researchers should not use such fragments particularly for species and genus-level diagnoses, and why it is essential to use all available evidence.
This study shows that the mandibular variation that is present in fossils from Malapa attributed to Australopithecus sediba has parallels in both Australopithecus africanus and in Homo. This helps to demonstrate that mandibular form is not sufficient to provide evidence of species diagnosis, but also that the development and adaptations to diet in Au. sediba were overlapping with those present in other related species of hominins.
How to Cite
All articles are published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence
Copyright is retained by the authors. Readers are welcome to reproduce, share and adapt the content without permission provided the source is attributed.
Disclaimer: The publisher and editors accept no responsibility for statements made by the authors