Browsing Research Outputs (School of Geosciences) by Author "Berger, L.R."
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Item3D techniques and fossil identification: An elephant shrew hemi-mandible from the Malapa site.(Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), 2011-11-07) Val, A.; Carlson, K.J; Kibii, J.M.; Steininger, C.; Churms, C.; Kuhn, B.F.; Berger, L.R.Conventional methods for extracting fossilised bones from calcified clastic sediments, using air drills or chemical preparations, can damage specimens to the point of rendering them unidentifiable. As an alternative, we tested an in silico approach that extended preparation and identification possibilities beyond those realisable using physical methods, ultimately proving to be crucial in identifying a fragile fossil. Image data from a matrix-encased hemi-mandible of a micromammal that was collected from the Plio-Pleistocene site of Malapa, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa, were acquired using microtomography. From the resultant images, a 3D rendering of the fossil was digitally segmented. Diagnostic morphologies were evaluated on the rendering for comparison with extant comparative specimens, positively identifying the specimen as an elephant shrew (Elephantulus sp.). This specimen is the first positively identified micromammal in the Malapa faunal assemblage. Cutting-edge in silico preparation technology provides a novel tool for identifying fossils without endangering bone integrity, as is commonly risked with physical preparation. ItemAn Acheulean handaxe from Gladysvale Cave site, Gauteng, South Africa.(Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), 2006-03) Hall, G.; Pickering, R.; Lacruz, R.; Hancox, J.; Berger, L.R.; Schmid, P.WE DESCRIBE A SINGLE HANDAXE FROM fossiliferous breccias at Gladysvale Cave, South Africa. The artefact is the only known tool so far discovered during the controlled excavations conducted at this site over the last decade, and was recovered from decalcified sediments near the stratigraphic interface of two breccia units, making it difficult to assign it with confidence to either. The morphology of the handaxe indicates a middle-late Acheulean industry, and preliminary electron spin resonance and palaeomagnetic dating suggest an age of greater than 780 000 years. ItemDevelopmental simulation of the adult cranial morphology of australopithecus sediba.(Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), 2016-07) Carlson, K.B.; De Ruiter, D.J.; Dewitt, T.J.; Mcnuity, K.P.; Tafforeau, P.; Berger, L.R.; Carlson, K.J.The type specimen of Australopithecus sediba (MH1) is a late juvenile, prompting some commentators to suggest that had it lived to adulthood its morphology would have changed sufficiently so as to render hypotheses regarding its phylogenetic relations suspect. Considering the potentially critical position of this species with regard to the origins of the genus Homo, a deeper understanding of this change is especially vital. As an empirical response to this critique, a developmental simulation of the MH1 cranium was carried out using geometric morphometric techniques to extrapolate adult morphology using extant male and female chimpanzees, gorillas and humans by modelling remaining development. Multivariate comparisons of the simulated adult A. sediba crania with other early hominin taxa indicate that subsequent cranial development primarily reflects development of secondary sexual characteristics and would not likely be substantial enough to alter suggested morphological affinities of A. sediba. This study also illustrates the importance of separating developmental vectors by sex when estimating ontogenetic change. Results of the ontogenetic projections concur with those from mandible morphology, and jointly affirm the taxonomic validity of A. sediba. ItemNew fossil remains of Homo naledi from the Lesedi Chamber, South Africa(eLife Sciences Publications Ltd, 2017-05) Hawks, J.; Elliott, M.; Schmid, P.; Churchill, S.E.; de Ruiter, D.J.; Roberts, E.M.; Hilbert-Wolf, H.; Garvin, H.M.; Williams, S.A.; Delezene, L.K.; Feuerriegel, E.M.; Randolph-Quinney, P.; Kivell, T.L.; Laird, M.F.; Tawane, G.; DeSilva, J.M.; Bailey, S.E.; Brophy, J.K.; Meyer, M.R.; Skinner, M.M.; Tocheri, M.W.; VanSickle, C.; Walker, C.S.; Campbell, T.L.; Kuhn, B.; Kruger, A.; Tucker, S.; Gurtov, A.; Hlophe, N.; Hunter, R.; Morris, H.; Peixotto, B.; Ramalepa, M.; van Rooyen, D.; Tsikoane, M.; Boshoff, P.; Dirks, P.H.G.M.; Berger, L.R.The Rising Star cave system has produced abundant fossil hominin remains within the Dinaledi Chamber, representing a minimum of 15 individuals attributed to Homo naledi. Further exploration led to the discovery of hominin material, now comprising 131 hominin specimens, within a second chamber, the Lesedi Chamber. The Lesedi Chamber is far separated from the Dinaledi Chamber within the Rising Star cave system, and represents a second depositional context for hominin remains. In each of three collection areas within the Lesedi Chamber, diagnostic skeletal material allows a clear attribution to H. naledi. Both adult and immature material is present. The hominin remains represent at least three individuals based upon duplication of elements, but more individuals are likely present based upon the spatial context. The most significant specimen is the near-complete cranium of a large individual, designated LES1, with an endocranial volume of approximately 610 ml and associated postcranial remains. The Lesedi Chamber skeletal sample extends our knowledge of the morphology and variation of H. naledi, and evidence of H. naledi from both recovery localities shows a consistent pattern of differentiation from other hominin species. ItemOsteopathology and insect traces in the Australopithecus africanus skeleton StW 431(Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), 2017-01) Zipfel, B.; Jakata, K.; Bonney, H.; Odes, E.J.; Parkinson, A.H.; Randolph-Quinney, P.S.; Berger, L.R.We present the first application of high-resolution micro computed tomography in an analysis of both the internal and external morphology of the lumbar region of StW 431 - a hominin skeleton recovered from Member 4 infill of the Sterkfontein Caves (South Africa) in 1987. The lumbar vertebrae of the individual present a number of proliferative and erosive bony processes, which were investigated in this study. Investigations suggest a complex history of taphonomic alteration to pre-existing spinal degenerative joint disease (SDJD) as well as post-mortem modification by an unknown insect. This study is in agreement with previous pathological diagnoses of SDJD which affected StW 431 and is the first time insect traces on this hominin are described. The results of this analysis attest to the complex series of post-mortem processes affecting the Sterkfontein site and its fossil assemblages. ItemA partial skull of Paranthropus robustus from Cooper's Cave, South Africa.(Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), 2008-03) Berger, L.R.; Kuhn, B.F.; Steininger, C.A partial hominin skull (COB 101) was identified in the fossil collections of the Transvaal Museum, Pretoria, attributed to the Cooper's Cave site in South Africa. The find represents the most complete hominin specimen recovered from localities at this site to date. COB 101 comprises the supraorbital, zygomatic, infraorbital and nasoalveolar regions of the right side, and the right upper third premolar. The specimen has undergone post-depositional distortion that resulted in the flattening of the facial structures. Here we describe and compare COB 101 with other hominin material from Africa and find that this specimen shares numerous diagnostic features with Paranthropus robustus. The discovery of COB 101 augments the number of specimens attributed to this species from other South African sites and other Cooper's Cave localities. ItemTaphonomic analysis of the faunal assemblage associated with the hominins (Australopithecus sediba) from the early pleistocene cave deposits of Malapa, South Africa.(Public Library of Science, 2015-06-10) Val, A.; Dirks, P.H.G.M.; Backwell, L.R.; Berger, L.R.; D'Errico, F.Here we present the results of a taphonomic study of the faunal assemblage associated with the hominin fossils (Australopithecus sediba) from the Malapa site. Results include estimation of body part representation, mortality profiles, type of fragmentation, identification of breakage patterns, and microscopic analysis of bone surfaces. The diversity of the faunal spectrum, presence of animals with climbing proclivities, abundance of complete and/or articulated specimens, occurrence of antimeric sets of elements, and lack of carnivore-modified bones, indicate that animals accumulated via a natural death trap leading to an area of the cave system with no access to mammalian scavengers. The co-occurrence of well preserved fossils, carnivore coprolites, deciduous teeth of brown hyaena, and some highly fragmented and poorly preserved remains supports the hypothesis of a mixing of sediments coming from distinct chambers, which collected at the bottom of the cave system through the action of periodic water flow. This combination of taphonomic features explains the remarkable state of preservation of the hominin fossils as well as some of the associated faunal material.