Australopithecus East of the Great Rift Valley

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An international team of paleontologists led by Emma Mbua of Mount Kenya University and Masato Nakatsukasa of Kyoto University report findings of fossilized teeth and forearm bone from an adult male and two infant A. afarensis from an exposure eroded by the Kantis River in Ongata-Rongai, a settlement in the outskirts of Nairobi. CREDIT Masato Nakatsukasa / Kyoto University

Late last month, an international team of paleontologists led by Emma Mbua of Mount Kenya University and Masato Nakatsukasa of Kyoto University reported the findings of fossilized teeth and forearm bone from an adult male and two infant A. afarensis from an exposure eroded by the Kantis River in Ongata-Rongai, a settlement in the outskirts of Nairobi. They published their findings Journal of Human Evolution.

So far, all other A. afarensis fossils had been identified from the center of the Rift Valley. Stable isotope analysis revealed that the Kantis region was humid, but had a plain-like environment with fewer trees compared to other sites in the Great Rift Valley where A. afaransis fossils had previously appeared… It seems that A. afaransis was good at adapting to varying environments.

2 thoughts on “Australopithecus East of the Great Rift Valley

  1. Thanks for this. Perhaps “A.afarensis was good at adapting to varying environments” as you say, but these environments were always wetlands or swamp forests (e.g. K.Reed 1997 JHE 32:289). Kantis, too, was “humid (and) had a plain-like environment”: it was a wetland, with a perennial water-body from 1 to several meters deep: there were hippos (2 spp?), crocodiles & a giant otter Enhydriodon. Australopiths had a vertical body-build, not for running bipedally over hot plains as some people still believe (sweat = water + salt = scarce on savannas), but for wading bipedally & climbing vertically in the branches above the swamp. For illustrations of how australopiths might have lived, google “bonobo wading” or “gorilla bai”.

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