Identifications, environments, anthropometry

Mrs PLES (c) J. Braga

IDEA aims to unravel the respective roles of developmental, functional, behavioral and environmental factors that triggered key evolutionary changes of hominin/human societies over the past few millions of years. Assessments of bone and dental shape variations within fossil samples and modern species are pivotal to test previous hypotheses that have disrupted scenarios of human evolution. IDEA therefore combines field work in Late Pliocene and early Pleistocene deposits in South Africa, and recent advances in methods for shape analysis to revise the definition of the most significant features of our own genus, Homo, and its closest relative, Paranthropus; as well as to test the unresolved phylogenetic position of other early hominin taxa. We compare the ecological niches of these human ancestors from the late Pliocene, put in relation with their sensory features, reproductive and dietary strategies. Our approach involves asking the question of the dawn of humanity; the identification of the short-term or long-term evolutionary processes that shaped our most significant biological and behavioral singularities, most likely shortly after 2,5 millions of years ago.

We investigate unique fossil hominin discoveries associated with archaeological and paleoenvironmental data from the UNESCO site of Kromdraai (South Africa) using cutting edge three-dimensional morphometric methods, micro-computed X-ray tomography and synchrotron radiation. Beyond geometric morphometrics, we use recent advances in computational anatomy, a set of methods allowing a more efficient quantitative investigation of anatomical shapes and their variability. We therefore connect archaeologists, biologists, medical doctors and computer scientists to make more robust our proposed evolutionary models