Early hominin auditory capacities
Rolf Quam 1,2,3,*, Ignacio Martínez 2,4, Manuel Rosa 5, Alejandro Bonmatí 2,6, Carlos Lorenzo 7,8,2, Darryl J. de Ruiter 9, Jacopo Moggi-Cecchi 10, Mercedes Conde Valverde 4, Pilar Jarabo 5, Colin G. Menter 11, J. Francis Thackeray 12 and Juan Luis Arsuaga 2,6
- Author Affiliations
1Department of Anthropology, Binghamton University [State University of New York (SUNY)], Binghamton, NY 13902–6000, USA.
2Centro de Investigación (UCM-ISCIII) sobre Evolución y Comportamiento Humanos, Avda. Monforte de Lemos, 5, 28029 Madrid, Spain.
3Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024, USA.
4Departamento de Ciencias de la Vida, Universidad de Alcalá, Edificio de Ciencias, Campus Universitario, 28805 Alcalá de Henares, Spain.
5Departamento de Teoría de la Señal y Comunicaciones, Universidad de Alcalá, Escuela Politécnica Superior, Campus Universitario, 28805 Alcalá de Henares, Spain.
6Departamento de Paleontología, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Facultad de Ciencias Geológicas, Ciudad Universitaria s/n, 28040 Madrid, Spain.
7Área de Prehistoria, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Avinguda Catalunya 35, 43002 Tarragona, Spain.
8Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES), Campus Sescelades URV (Edifici W3), 43007 Tarragona, Spain.
9Department of Anthropology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA.
10Laboratori di Antropologia, Dipartimento di Biologia, Universita’ di Firenze, via del Proconsolo, 12 50122 Firenze, Italy.
11Centre for Anthropological Research, Humanities Research Village, University of Johannesburg, PO Box 524, Auckland Park 2006, South Africa.
12Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, PO WITS, Johannesburg 2050, South Africa.
↵*Corresponding author. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Science Advances 25 Sep 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 8, e1500355
Credit/Crédito: Rolf Quam
Studies of sensory capacities in past life forms have offered new insights into their adaptations and lifeways. Audition is particularly amenable to study in fossils because it is strongly related to physical properties that can be approached through their skeletal structures. We have studied the anatomy of the outer and middle ear in the early hominin taxa Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus and estimated their auditory capacities. Compared with chimpanzees, the early hominin taxa are derived toward modern humans in their slightly shorter and wider external auditory canal, smaller tympanic membrane, and lower malleus/incus lever ratio, but they remain primitive in the small size of their stapes footplate. Compared with chimpanzees, both early hominin taxa show a heightened sensitivity to frequencies between 1.5 and 3.5 kHz and an occupied band of maximum sensitivity that is shifted toward slightly higher frequencies. The results have implications for sensory ecology and communication, and suggest that the early hominin auditory pattern may have facilitated an increased emphasis on short-range vocal communication in open habitats.
Keywords Australopithecus Paranthropus audition communication sensory ecologyearevolution
Copyright © 2015, The Authors
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