The life history of Ardipithecus ramidus: a heterochronic model of sexual and social maturation

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Abstract

In this paper we analyse the ontogeny of craniofacial growth in Ardipithecus ramidus in the context of its possible social and environmental determinants. We sought to test the hypothesis that this form of early hominin evolved a specific adult craniofacial morphology via heterochronic dissociation of growth trajectories. We suggest the lack of sexual dimorphism in craniofacial morphology provides evidence for a suite of adult behavioral adaptations, and consequently an ontogeny, unlike any other species of extant ape. The lack of sexually dimorphic craniofacial morphology suggests A. ramidus males adopted reproductive strategies that did not require male on male conflict. Male investment in the maternal metabolic budget and/or paternal investment in offspring may have been reproductive strategies adopted by males. Such strategies would account for the absence of innate morphological armoury in males. Consequently, A. ramidus would have most likely had sub-adult periods of socialisation unlike that of any extant ape. We also argue that A.ramidus and chimpanzee craniofacial morphology are apomorphic, each representing a derived condition relative to that of the common ancestor, with A. ramidus developing its orthognatic condition via paedomoporhosis, and chimpanzees evolving increased prognathism via peramorphosis. In contrast we suggest cranial volume and life history trajectories may be synapomorphic traits that both species inherited and retained form a putative common ancestral condition. Our analysis also provides support for the hypothesis that an intensification of maternal care was central to the process of hominization.

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