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Growth study of wild chimpanzees challenges assumptions about early humans

nthropologists have relied heavily on studies of captive chimpanzees to establish a baseline for hominid growth and to generate hypotheses about the life history and behaviors of fossil humans. We now know those scenarios are based on faulty data."

Comparing teeth of wild chimpanzees to previous research on two Homo erectus fossil specimens, the researchers found that the first molars of both wild chimpanzees and Homo erectus emerge at about four years of age, and the second molars emerge at about eight years of age.

"Our data suggest that wild chimpanzees and Homo erectus growth patterns may not have differed from each other as much as previously thought," said Zihlman. "These findings do not support Homo erectus developmentally as an intermediate between chimplike ancestors and modern humans. Our data also call into question the assumption that a larger body size and a big brain require a longer time to grow."

The findings also explain why dental-eruption data derived from captive chimpanzees didn't match the life stages of wild animals observed by researchers in the field, Zihlman noted.

The skeletal samples examined included 12 immature individuals and one young adult from the Tai National Park, Ivory Coast, four immatures from Gombe National Park in Tanzania, and one immature from Bossou, Guinea.


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Contact: Jennifer McNulty
jmcnulty@ucsc.edu
831-459-4399
University of California - Santa Cruz
13-Jul-2004


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