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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

12/18/2013 (7 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Discovery in Kenya places dexterity origins more than half a million years earlier than thought

Dexterity, or mankind's possession of an opposible thumb, is one of the main things that separates humanity from the lower primates. Manual dexterity is one of the essential building blocks in civilization. Now, the discovery of an ancient bone at a Kenyan burial site puts the origin of dexterity more than half a million years earlier than previously believed.

The fragment from an ancient hominin displays provides evidence for the evolution of the modern human hand more than 600,000 years earlier.

The fragment from an ancient hominin displays provides evidence for the evolution of the modern human hand more than 600,000 years earlier.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

12/18/2013 (7 months ago)

Published in Green

Keywords: Dexterity, opposable thumb, Kenya, prehistory, anthropology


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The specimen, a well-preserved metacarpal that connects to the middle finger - resembles that of modern man. The discovery is being cited as the earliest fossilized evidence of when the earliest humans developed a strong enough grip to begin using tools.

A styloid process, a distinctively human morphological feature associated with hand function, is on prominent display on the 1.42 million-year-old metacarpal.

The fragment from an ancient hominin displays provides evidence for the evolution of the modern human hand more than 600,000 years earlier. Prehensile hands were originally documented in the times of the genus Homo erectussensu lato.

The styloid process helps the hand bone lock into the wrist bones. This allows for greater amounts of pressure to be applied to the wrist and hand from a grasping thumb and fingers.

Professor Carol Ward and her colleagues noted that a lack of the styloid process created challenges for apes and earlier humans when they attempted to make and use tools.

"The styloid process reflects an increased dexterity that allowed early human species to use powerful yet precise grips when manipulating objects," Ward, a professor of pathology and anatomical sciences at the University of Missouri, Columbia, said.

"This was something that their predecessors couldn't do as well due to the lack of this styloid process and its associated anatomy.

"With this discovery, we are closing the gap on the evolutionary history of the human hand. This may not be the first appearance of the modern human hand, but we believe that it is close to the origin, given that we do not see this anatomy in any human fossils older than 1.8 million years.

"Our specialized, dexterous hands have been with us for most of the evolutionary history of our genus, Homo. They are - and have been for almost 1.5 million years - fundamental to our survival," she said.

The evidence was discovered at the Kaitio site in West Turkana, near an area where the earliest Acheulian tools have appeared.



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