Letters to Nature

Nature 431, 299-302 (16 September 2004) | doi:10.1038/nature02852; Received 8 August 2003; Accepted 13 July 2004

Early brain growth in Homo erectus and implications for cognitive ability

H. Coqueugniot1, J.-J. Hublin2, F. Veillon3, F. Houët1 & T. Jacob4

  1. UMR 5199-PACEA, Laboratoire d'Anthropologie des Populations du Passé, Université Bordeaux 1, avenue des Facultés, 33405 Talence cedex, France
  2. Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, 04130 Leipzig, Germany
  3. Service de Radiologie I, Hôpital Hautepierre, avenue Molière, 67200 Strasbourg, France
  4. Department of Physical Anthropology, Gadjah Mada University, College of Medicine, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Correspondence to: J.-J. Hublin2 Email: hublin@eva.mpg.de

Humans differ from other primates in their significantly lengthened growth period. The persistence of a fetal pattern of brain growth after birth is another important feature of human development1. Here we present the results of an analysis of the 1.8-million-year-old Mojokerto child (Perning 1, Java), the only well preserved skull of a Homo erectus infant, by computed tomography. Comparison with a large series of extant humans and chimpanzees indicates that this individual was about 1 yr (0–1.5 yr) old at death and had an endocranial capacity at 72–84% of an average adult H. erectus. This pattern of relative brain growth resembles that of living apes, but differs from that seen in extant humans. It implies that major differences in the development of cognitive capabilities existed between H. erectus and anatomically modern humans.

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