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CT scans show Australopithecus africanus not as 'human' as thought

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The 3-million-year old skull of the Taung Child considered the premiere evidence that Australopithecus africanus was distinctively human has been shown to be not too human after all. Ralph L. Holloway with the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University in New York and colleagues have produced convincing evidence that the Taung Child skull does not show human-like development that has been claimed for the last 90 years. The research was published in the Aug. 25, 2014, edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Taung Child was found in Taung, South Africa in 1924 and described by Raymond Dart of Wits University. Dart described a cast of the interior of the Taung Child’s skull as being proof that the fossil was an intermediate form between humans and apes. The Taung Child was described as “the missing link.” The description was based on the brain structure of the fossil that indicated a high a high degree of expansion of the prefrontal lobe. The prefrontal lobe is known to be the locus of many of the behaviors that are distinctively human.

Holloway and colleagues performed the first high-resolution CT scans on the Taung Child’s skull. The fossil is thought to have been a child of three to four years of age. The CT analysis does not indicate that any development that is even near human exists in the Taung Child fossil. Comparison of known hominin fossils and chimpanzees to the Taung Child also support the claim that this is not a human ancestor.

The research leaves a gap in human evolution. The developmental features of human skulls and brains do not have a direct link between humans and apes that has been found in the fossil record. Dart has been proven to be wrong. Dart did not have the equipment that is available today and he may have wanted to be famous. Those who will opt to make the claim that evolution is a fabrication based on this new research must also prove that all other hominin fossils, Neanderthals, and Devonians never existed.

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