The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Brain morphology of Zhoukoudian H. erectus


1Key Laboratory of Evolutionary Systematics of Vertebrates, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2School of Anatomical Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand Medical School

Friday 11:30-11:45, Grand Ballroom II Add to calendar

Endocasts of six of the Zhoukoudian H. erectus crania, deriving from Locality 1 with a geological age of ~0.5 mya, have been reconstructed. New CT and 3D modeling of these endocasts make detailed and accurate comparisons possible. The average volume of the endocasts is 1058 ml, which places them in the middle of the range of endocranial volumes obtained for a broad spectrum of H. erectus ranging from 600 to 1251 ml. The ZKD brains have several features (low height and low position of the greatest breadth, flat frontal and parietal lobes, depressed Sylvian areas, strong posterior projection of the occipital lobes, anterior positioning of the cerebellar lobes relative to the occipital lobes, and relative simplicity of the meningeal vessels) that distinguish them from modern Chinese. Compared with the other ZKD endocasts, ZKD 5 (with the highest stratigraphic position) has a few ‘progressive’ features foreshadowing modern Homo sapiens brain morphology including bossed parietal lobes, wider frontal lobes, and greater total volume. The shared features of the ZKD and other comparative H. erectus endocasts suggest that this aspect of the morphology, more than any other feature, which can be regarded as the definitive characteristic of presapiens members of the genus Homo.

This research is supported by a Chinese Academy of Sciences Visiting Professorship for Senior International Scientists Grant #2011T1711 to Schepartz.

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