ABOVE: The A. afarensis “Dikika child” fossilized skull from Ethiopia. “The colors represent the different fragments of the bone that were defined based on computed tomographic scans of the original bones,” coauthor Philipp Gunz tells The Scientist in an email. “Subsequently, I repositioned these fragments on the computer so as to correct for damage [to] the bone after death.”

The brains of Australopithecus afarensis, a hominin species that lived in eastern Africa more than 3 million years ago, were organized in a manner similar to those of apes, report the authors of a study published on April 1 in Science Advances, but they also indicate a slow growth period like that found in modern humans.

“The fact that protracted brain growth emerged in hominins as early as 3.3 Ma ago could suggest that it characterized all of subsequent hominin evolutionary history,”...

Virtually arranged bone fragments of the A. afarensis “Dikika child” skull

P. Gunz et al., “Australopithecus afarensis endocasts suggest ape-like brain organization and prolonged brain growth,” Science Advances, doi:10.1126/sciadv.aaz4729, 2020.

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