Rib cage anatomy in Homo erectus suggests a recent evolutionary origin of modern human body shape

Markus Bastir, Daniel García-Martínez, Nicole Torres-Tamayo, Carlos A. Palancar, Benoît Beyer, Alon Barash, Chiara Villa, Juan Alberto Sanchis-Gimeno, Alberto Riesco-López, Shahed Nalla, Isabel Torres-Sánchez, Francisco García-Río, Ella Been, Asier Gómez-Olivencia, Martin Haeusler, Scott A. Williams, Fred Spoor

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The tall and narrow body shape of anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens) evolved via changes in the thorax, pelvis and limbs. It is debated, however, whether these modifications first evolved together in African Homo erectus, or whether H. erectus had a more primitive body shape that was distinct from both the more ape-like Australopithecus species and H. sapiens. Here we present the first quantitative three-dimensional reconstruction of the thorax of the juvenile H. erectus skeleton, KNM-WT 15000, from Nariokotome, Kenya, along with its estimated adult rib cage, for comparison with H. sapiens and the Kebara 2 Neanderthal. Our three-dimensional reconstruction demonstrates a short, mediolaterally wide and anteroposteriorly deep thorax in KNM-WT 15000 that differs considerably from the much shallower thorax of H. sapiens, pointing to a recent evolutionary origin of fully modern human body shape. The large respiratory capacity of KNM-WT 15000 is compatible with the relatively stocky, more primitive, body shape of H. erectus.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1178-1187
    Number of pages10
    JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
    Issue number9
    StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
    • Ecology


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