Re: Africanus or Robust ?

Phil Nicholls (
13 Apr 1995 23:42:40 GMT

In article <3mkagb$>, <cc3265@albnyvms.bitnet> wrote:
>In article <>, (VITALE) writes:
>>As of late I have been hearing alot of cross talk that the Taung
>>child might not be an A. Africanus but a robust pith. Could this
>>be? I thought to be considered robust you needed a sagittal crest.
>>As in the black skull. If this is the case where is the crest ?
>The Taung specimen is a young child, so the thinking is that it was not
>fully developed yet. For more info on this you might want to look at
>Dean Falk's "Braindance", I believe she discusses this issue in there.
>Caroline R. Cooper

At issue is the way blood drains from the brain as observed in the
dural sinuses that leave impressions on the endocranial casts of
hominid fossils. Humans and gracile australopithecines have what
is called a transverse/sigmoid sinus drainage. Robust australopithecines
and the hadar specimens all have an additional sinus, the occipital-marginal
sinus (O/M sinus for short). Falk claims that the O/M sinus is found
only in the robust and hadar hominids, at least in all with the back
part of the skull intact that makes scoring this feature possible.
Taung has an O/M sinus.

The problem, of course, is that Taung is the holotype specimen of
Australopithecus africanus. If this feature is accepted as diagnostic
then all robust specimens must be renamed A. africanus and all of the
gracile specimens must be renamed something else. Well, that is one
take on it. A taxonomic nightmare.

The paleontological community has not on the whole jumped on the
O/M sinus bandwagon. If Dr. Holloway is reading this thread he
may offer some insights as to why not.

Phil Nicholls "To ask a question you must first
Department of Anthropology know most of the answer."
SUNY Albany -Robert Sheckley SEMPER ALLOUATTA