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Author Topic: Has anyone heard of the Taung Child?  (Read 8681 times)

Offline chris

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Has anyone heard of the Taung Child?
« on: 22/11/2007 18:46:16 »
Has anyone come across the story of the Taung Child fossil?

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Offline Karen W.

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Has anyone heard of the Taung Child?
« Reply #1 on: 22/11/2007 20:05:21 »
http://www.modernhumanorigins.net/taung.html

Photographs by David Brill

These pictures are  Taung child!





 

Offline Karen W.

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Has anyone heard of the Taung Child?
« Reply #2 on: 22/11/2007 20:16:14 »
Here is an article...
http://www.newscientist.com/channel/being-human/human-evolution/mg14719940.800-taung-child-fell-from-the-sky.html


Taung Child 'fell from the sky'

    * 09 September 1995
    * From New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.
    * Sue Armstrong

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EVER since the fossilised skull of an infant hominid was found at Taung on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in 1924, scientists have wondered what the child was doing there and how it died. Despite exhaustive excavations, no other specimen of Australopithecus africanus, as the fossil was named, has ever been found at Taung to indicate that this was a regular hominid haunt. Nor does the evidence suggest that a carnivore such as a leopard carried off the child.

Lee Berger and Ron Clarke of the Palaeoanthropology Research Unit at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg believe they have found the answer to the mystery. In the latest edition of the Journal of Human Evolution they suggest that a large bird of prey such as an eagle may have killed the child on the nearby plains and carried it off to its nest.

Their theory, says Berger, explains why precious few fossils of large antelopes have been found at Taung, which you would expect if big cats had been responsible. This sets the site apart from other cave sites in South Africa where hominid fossils have been found. The fossils at Taung are mainly the small skulls of baboons and hyraxes, fragments of tortoise carapaces and the shells of large birds' eggs.

The Taung Child, discovered by Raymond Dart, was the first fossil of a human ancestor found in Africa. It provided the first concrete evidence that this continent, not Asia, was the cradle of humankind.

The idea that the child could have fallen prey to a large bird 2.5 million years ago came to Berger when he was working at Gladysvale, a hominid fossil site in the Transvaal hills. Suddenly, a black eagle snatched a vervet monkey from a troop playing on the opposite ridge. "I'd never dreamt an eagle could carry off something so big, but when I saw the monkey dangling in those talons, something clicked," says Berger.

Back in Johannesburg he looked up everything known about the predatory habits of eagles. He and Clarke also spent months looking at animal parts that accumulate in and around modern eagle nests, and the characteristic damage to them, and comparing them with the fossils collected from Taung.

They found that bones from modern eagle nests commonly show depression fractures in the top and sides of the skulls, and V-shaped cuts made by the beak. The base of the skull has usually been torn away by the bird as it tries to get at the meat of the brain. "All of these features are found repeatedly in the fossil bones of Taung," says Berger. He believes the child's skull may have tumbled from a nest in an overhanging tree and rolled into the cave where it was found. "Nothing violated our theory," Berger says.

Other experts are divided over Berger's suggestion. "They've shown that it's possible that eagles contributed to the collection of baboon fossils at Taung, that's all," says Jeff McKee, who has directed excavations at Taung for the past seven years. The baboon skulls Berger and Clarke use to support their theory were not found in the same spot as the Taung Child, he says, and many are believed to be "at least 100 000 years" younger. Moreover, the top of the child's skull is missing and the "indistinct" marks on the brain cast could just as easily have been made by a tooth or a blow as by a beak. McKee believes the child drowned and was washed into the cave.

But there is encouragement from Bob Brain, whose own work on the agents responsible for bone collections at South Africa's hominid fossil sites is widely acclaimed. "This is a nice bit of work," he says. "Berger and Clarke have given a plausible explanation for the unusual assemblage of bones at Taung."
From issue 1994 of New Scientist magazine, 09 September 1995, page 7
 
« Last Edit: 22/11/2007 20:27:25 by Karen W. »
 

paul.fr

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Has anyone heard of the Taung Child?
« Reply #3 on: 23/11/2007 23:04:20 »
will this be part of next weeks show?
 

Offline JimBob

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Has anyone heard of the Taung Child?
« Reply #4 on: 23/11/2007 23:14:28 »
Yes, I have. The Taung child is a juvenile gracile Australopithecus. The most probable preditor is the Crowned Eagle. The crowned Eagle still hunts large primates - the largest monkeys - in the African forests.

Comparison of skulls, especially the hole in the back of the eye sockets caused by the beaks of the eagles as they picked out the eyes of the prey make these almost surely raptor fodder, not leopard fodder. 
 

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Has anyone heard of the Taung Child?
« Reply #4 on: 23/11/2007 23:14:28 »

 

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