|Taung Child / Wikimedia Commons / Didier Descouens|
“Taung Child”—the first australopithecine ape discovered—didn’t blaze the trail to bigger better brains for humanity’s supposed ancestors after all. A 2012 CT X-ray analysis reported that Taung Child had an unfused frontal bone as human babies do—and quite unlike great apes. (See diagrams below.) Dean Falk and colleagues claimed that Taung Child and other hominins of its time were evolving increased capacity for expansion of the frontal brain by delaying fusion of this cranial bone. A new imaging study, published 9 September 2014 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, begs to differ.Use your head, finish reading the article by clicking on "Tale of the Taung Child Collapses". In addition, you can read "Australopith Child Gets an Academic Spanking".
Of course the evolutionary story is far more flexible than the fossils from which it seeks support. Therefore, though Taung Child has lost its recently acquired prominent status in the human evolutionary hall of brains, thanks to its dissimilarity to humans it will doubtless be retained for the evolutionary variability it supposedly demonstrates.