New fossils of Australopithecus sediba reveal a nearly complete lower back
Scott A Williams,
Thomas Cody Prang,
Marc R Meyer,
Thierra K Nalley,
Renier Van Der Merwe,
Gabrielle A Russo,
Kelly R Ostrofsky,
Steven E Churchill,
Lee R Berger
Posted 29 May 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.05.27.445933
Posted 29 May 2021
Adaptations of the lower back to bipedalism are frequently discussed but infrequently demonstrated in early fossil hominins. Newly discovered lumbar vertebrae contribute to a near-complete lower back of Malapa Hominin 2 (MH2), offering additional insights into posture and locomotion in Australopithecus sediba. We show that MH2 demonstrates a lower back consistent with human-like lumbar lordosis and other adaptations to bipedalism, including an increase in the width of intervertebral articular facets from the upper to lower lumbar column ("pyramidal configuration"). This contrasts with recent work on lordosis in fossil hominins, where MH2 was argued to demonstrate no appreciable lordosis ("hypolordosis") similar to Neandertals. Our three-dimensional geometric morphometric (3D GM) analyses show that MH2s nearly complete middle lumbar vertebra is human-like in shape but bears large, cranially-directed transverse processes, implying powerful trunk musculature. We interpret this combination of features to indicate that A. sediba used its lower back in both human-like bipedalism and ape-like arboreal positional behaviors, as previously suggested based on multiple lines of evidence from other parts of the skeleton and reconstructed paleobiology of A. sediba.
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