Monday, April 12, 2010

New species' skull could have remnant brain tissue inside...

Yes, I am an anthropology geek. Why do you ask?

I found this story, and just had to pass it along.

EDITED TO ADD: The Yahoo link at the beginning of this post will take you to an index page, not the article in question, but it will get you to the article eventually so I'll leave it in the post. The Livescience link at the end of this post will get you directly to the original article.

A skull belonging to a newly-announced possible ancestor to humans, Australopithecus sediba, which was just revealed last week, could have a shrunken remnant of its brain inside, according to this story on Yahoo! News.

Still inside most if its stone matrix, the skull was X-rayed at a facility in France, using a machine called a synchroton that generates much more detailed images than those of conventional X-ray machines. The scans indicated that the skull might contain a remnant of its brain as well as something that could be fossilzed insect eggs. However, even if the object seen is a brain fragment, those studying the brain say they would not likely be able to determine its original structure.

Scientists studying the skull hope to also use its teeth to determine its chronological age. If they can do that, they can compare it to the remains' developmental level, which is about that of a modern 13-year-old, to tell whether the species was still developing like other australopithecines did, or if it had started to trend toward developmental rates of members of the genus Homo.

Besides the skull, fragments amounting to about 40 percent of a body were found, which will help determine how the species got around.

The skull containing the possible brain remains is a male, but another skull of the species has been identified as that of an adult female.

These kinds of finds fascinate me. Each skull or fragment of bone found by paleoanthropologists...or by the children of these scientists, which was the case with this skull, according to the article...presents the possibility of being able to learn just a little bit more about how we developed as a species and about who our ancestors really were. It is a complicated story, but every little piece of the puzzle adds more knowledge to build on to make it more complete.

You can find the original article on Livescience.

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