Archaeology Magazine

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Human Ancestor Could Live on Land or in Trees

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Olduvai-Gorge-Paranthropus-boiseiARUSHA REGION, TANZANIA—Paranthropus boisei is an early human ancestor first identified in 1959 when the anthropologist Mary Leakey found a skull with a large jawbone and cranium in northern Tanzania. Scientists today are saying that Paranthropus boisei had a gorilla-like upper body and was capable of adapting to both arboreal and terrestrial environments, based on research of a 1.34 million-year-old partial skeleton found in Tanzania's Olduvai Gorge more than two years ago. The arm bones, in particular, are prominent suggesting the roughly four-foot-tall biped that evolved 2.3 million years ago had a powerful upper body. "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," said University of Colorado Denver anthropologist Charles Musiba, who was part of the research team. "We knew about the kind of food it ateit was omnivorous, leaning more toward plant materialbut now we know more: how it walked around and now we know it was a tree climber."