Human evolution. Human-like hand use in Australopithecus africanus.

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Skinner, Matthew M; Stephens, Nicholas B; Tsegai, Zewdi J; Foote, Alexandra C; Nguyen, N Huynh; Gross, Thomas; Pahr, Dieter H; Hublin, Jean-Jacques; Kivell, Tracy L
Year of Publication: 2015
Journal: Science
Volume: 347
Issue: 6220
Pagination: 395-9
Date Published: 2015 Jan 23
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 1095-9203
Keywords: Animals, Archaeology, Biological Evolution, Hominidae, Humans, Metacarpal Bones, Metacarpus, Neanderthals, Posture, thumb

The distinctly human ability for forceful precision and power "squeeze" gripping is linked to two key evolutionary transitions in hand use: a reduction in arboreal climbing and the manufacture and use of tools. However, it is unclear when these locomotory and manipulative transitions occurred. Here we show that Australopithecus africanus (~3 to 2 million years ago) and several Pleistocene hominins, traditionally considered not to have engaged in habitual tool manufacture, have a human-like trabecular bone pattern in the metacarpals consistent with forceful opposition of the thumb and fingers typically adopted during tool use. These results support archaeological evidence for stone tool use in australopiths and provide morphological evidence that Pliocene hominins achieved human-like hand postures much earlier and more frequently than previously considered.

DOI: 10.1126/science.1261735
Alternate Journal: Science