P. boisei was a long-lived species of archaic hominin that first evolved in East Africa about 2.3 million years ago. In the absence of evidence of other skeletal remains, it was commonly assumed that the skeleton of P. boisei was like that of more ancient species of the genus Australopithecus, from which P. boisei likely evolved.
"We are starting to understand the physiology of these individuals of this particular species and how it actually adapted to the kind of habitat it lived in," Musiba said. "We knew about the kind of food it ate -- it was omnivorous, leaning more toward plant material -- but now we know more: how it walked around and now we know it was a tree climber."
The size of the arm bones suggests strong forearms and a powerful upper body. "It's a different branch on our ancestry tree," Musiba said. "It came later than the other hominins, so the question now is 'what happened to it?' We're going to do more work on biomechanics and see what else this creature was doing."
He noted that the creature likely stood 3.5 to 4.5 feet tall and possessed a robust frame. "We know that it was very strong," Musiba said. "It's unprecedented to find how strong this individual was. The stronger you are the more adaptive you are."
In summer 2014, the bones will be displayed as part of a large exhibit on human origins in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The joint-museum exhibit involves the Museum of Human Evolution in Burgos, Spain, the Regional Museum of Archaeology in Madrid, and the National Museum of Dar es Salaam.
With each find scientists are adding to the understanding of how humans evolved and adapted to their surroundings through time. "The more we are finding of these fossils, the more we are learning about the history of these species," Musiba said.
|Contact: Chris Casey|
University of Colorado Denver