Archaeology Magazine

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Early Hominid Ear Bone Resembles That of Modern Humans

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

BINGHAMTON, NEW YORK—Early human ancestors had an ear bone similar to that of modern humans, according to palaeoanthropologist Rolf Quam of Binghamton University. Quam and his team recovered a complete set of the tiny bones from a 1.8-million-year-old Paranthropus robustus, and an incomplete set of ear bones from a 3.3 to 2.1-million-year-old Australopithecus africanus. The malleus from both hominids was smaller than those found in apes, implying a human-like, smaller eardrum, and sensitivity to the middle-range frequencies required for spoken language. “This could be like bipedalism: a defining characteristic of hominins,” said Quam. Further study is required to determine how the size of the ear bones and other ear structures affect hearing, however.