A Little Foot’s 3.67 Million Year Old Brain Peered
Editorials News | Dec-24-2018
Little foot are the fossils if Australopithecus. The MicroCT scans of these fossils have depicted that the brain of this ancient human relative was small. It has features which are very closely similar to human brain. Also, these are similar to the brain of our ancestors shared with living chimpanzees. Although most of the features have been found similar as the human brain such as an asymmetrical structure and pattern of middle meningeal vessels, on the contrary there are some critical areas such as an expanded visual cortex and reduced parietal association cortex. These fossils were excavated about 14 years ago from the Sterkfontein Caves in South Africa by Professor Ronald Clarke of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).
The Wits researchers who were involved in analysis and excavation of brain endocast were Dr. Amelie Beaudet and the Sterkfontein team with the help of MicroCT scans of the fossils. The scans show clearly the impressions on the skull by the brain and the vessels that feed it, along with its shape. Beaudet stated that the little foot endocast is exceptionally well preserved and complete that will enable the team of researchers to find out more about human origin much more than ever before. The scans have made it evident that this brain asymmetry was present from a very early date like almost 3.67 million years ago. Alongside it supports suggestions that it was probably present in the last common ancestors of hominins and other great apes. The team of researchers have drawn a comparison between the little foot endocasts and the endocasts of 10 other South African hominins dating between three and 1.5 million years ago. Further the study of the MicroCT scans has brought to light that the vascular system in Australopithecus was much more complex than was previously assumed. This also raises new questions on the metabolism of the brain at that time. Keeping the geological age of the little foot fossils in mind which is 3 million years, the little Foot's brain suggests that younger hominins evolved greater complexity in certain brain structures over time, in response to increasing environmental pressures felt after 2. 6 million years ago with continuing reduction in closed habitats.
By: Anuja Arora