Back to overview

Rib cage anatomy in Homo erectus suggests a recent evolutionary origin of modern human body shape

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Bastir Markus, García-Martínez Daniel, Torres-Tamayo Nicole, Palancar Carlos A., Beyer Benoît, Barash Alon, Villa Chiara, Sanchis-Gimeno Juan Alberto, Riesco-López Alberto, Nalla Shahed, Torres-Sánchez Isabel, García-Río Francisco, Been Ella, Gómez-Olivencia Asier, Haeusler Martin, Williams Scott A., Spoor Fred,
Project Birth and human evolution - implications from computer-assisted reconstructions
Show all

Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Nature Ecology & Evolution
Page(s) s41559-020
Title of proceedings Nature Ecology & Evolution
DOI 10.1038/s41559-020-1240-4

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


The tall and narrow body shape of anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens) evolved via changes in the thorax, pelvis and limbs. It is debated, however, whether these modifications first evolved together in African Homo erectus, or whether H. erectus had a more primitive body shape that was distinct from both the more ape-like Australopithecus species and H. sapiens. Here we present the first quantitative three-dimensional reconstruction of the thorax of the juvenile H. erectus skeleton, KNM-WT 15000, from Nariokotome, Kenya, along with its estimated adult rib cage, for comparison with H. sapiens and the Kebara 2 Neanderthal. Our three-dimensional reconstruction demonstrates a short, mediolaterally wide and anteroposteriorly deep thorax in KNM-WT 15000 that differs significantly from the much shallower thorax of H. sapiens, pointing to a recent evolutionary origin of fully modern human body shape. The large respiratory capacity of KNM-WT 15000 is compatible with the relatively stocky, more primitive, body shape of H. erectus.