Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Typically human brain development older than first thought

08.05.2012
A large neonate brain, rapid brain growth and large frontal lobes are the typical hallmarks of human brain development.
These appeared much earlier in the hominin family tree than was originally thought, as anthropologists from the University of Zurich who re-examined the Taung child’s fossil cranial sutures and compared them with other fossil skulls now prove. The late fusion of the cranial sutures in the Taung child is also found in many other members of the Australopithecus africanus species and the earliest examples of the Homo genus.

The Australopithecus child’s skull discovered in Taung in 1924 is an icon of human evolution. Of the neurocranium, the fossilized sediment filling has survived. The imprints of the original cerebral gyri on this rock core have fascinated paleoanthropologists from the outset and triggered much debate on the evolution of the Australopithecus brain.
Fossil cranial sutures cast in whole new light
The imprints of the cranial sutures that are also clearly visible on the rock core had long been forgotten. Now, anthropologists from the University of Zurich teamed up with researchers from Florida State University to examine their importance for brain growth in the Taung child. Sutures are bone growth fronts where the neurocranium can expand as the brain grows. Once the brain stops growing, the sutures ossify. The Taung child, who died at about four years of age, has something unusual: a suture between the two halves of the frontal bone. According to the research team’s analyses, this so-called metopic suture is already ossified in most chimpanzees of the Taung child’s age, but often is not in human children of the same age.
Typical brain development older than thought
As the researchers now demonstrate using computer-imaging comparisons of fossil crania, the late fusion of the metopic suture in the Taung child is not unique in fossils. It is also found in many other members of the species Australopithecus africanus, not to mention the earliest examples of our Homo genus. The three typical hallmarks of human brain development – a large neonate brain, rapid brain growth and large frontal lobes – therefore appeared much earlier in the hominin family tree than was originally thought.
Fast-growing brain behind late fusion
“The late fusion of the metopic suture in humans is linked to our special brain growth,” explains Marcia Ponce de León, a senior lecturer at the University of Zurich’s Anthropological Institute. A new-born human’s brain is as big as an adult chimpanzee’s. Accordingly, the cranium, which is deformed as it passes through the mother’s pelvis, is also large. This is only possible because all the cranial sutures are still wide open. After birth, the human brain grows extremely quickly, especially the large frontal lobes. “The late fusion of the metopic suture must be directly linked to this,” adds Ponce de León. In chimpanzees, these problems do not exist. Their neonates’ heads are comparatively small, their brain growth slows shortly after birth and the frontal lobes are not as pronounced. Consequently, the metopic suture also ossifies early.
Further reading:
Dean Falk, Christoph P. Zollikofer, Naoki Morimoto and Marcia S. Ponce de León. Metopic suture of Taung (Australopithecus africanus) and its implications for hominin brain evolution. PNAS, May 7, 2012. doi/10.1073/pnas.1119752109
Contact:
Dr. Marcia Ponce de León
Anthropological Institute
University of Zurich
Tel.: +41 44 635 54 27
Email: marcia@aim.uzh.ch

Nathalie Huber | Universität Zürich
Further information:
http://www.uzh.ch

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Scientists unlock ability to generate new sensory hair cells
22.02.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital

nachricht New insights into the information processing of motor neurons
22.02.2017 | Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microhotplates for a smart gas sensor

22.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Scientists unlock ability to generate new sensory hair cells

22.02.2017 | Life Sciences

Prediction: More gas-giants will be found orbiting Sun-like stars

22.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>