Possible Brucellosis in an Early Hominin Skeleton from
Sterkfontein, South Africa
, Bernhard Zipfel
, Jacopo Moggi-Cecchi
, Roscoe Stanyon
, Luigi Capasso
State University ‘‘G. d’Annunzio’’, Department of Human Movement Sciences, Section of Anthropology, Chieti, Italy,
University of the Witwatersrand, Bernard Price
Institute for Palaeontological Research and Institute for Human Evolution, Johannesburg, South Africa,
University of Florence, Department of Evolutionary Biology,
Laboratories of Anthropology, Florence, Italy
We report on the paleopathological analysis of the partial skeleton of the late Pliocene hominin species
Stw 431 from Sterkfontein, South Africa. A previous study noted the presence of lesions on vertebral bodies
diagnosed as spondylosis deformans due to trauma. Instead, we suggest that these lesions are pathological changes due to
the initial phases of an infectious disease, brucellosis. The macroscopic, microscopic and radiological appearance of the lytic
lesions of the lumbar vertebrae is consistent with brucellosis. The hypothesis of brucellosis (most often associated with the
consumption of animal proteins) in a 2.4 to 2.8 million year old hominid has a host of important implications for human
evolution. The consumption of meat has been regarded an important factor in supporting, directing or altering human
evolution. Perhaps the earliest (up to 2.5 million years ago) paleontological evidence for meat eating consists of cut marks
on animal remains and stone tools that could have made these marks. Now with the hypothesis of brucellosis in
we may have evidence of occasional meat eating directly linked to a fossil hominin.
D’Anastasio R, Zipfel B, Moggi-Cecchi J, Stanyon R, Capasso L (2009) Possible Brucellosis in an Early Hominin Skeleton from Sterkfontein, South
Africa. PLoS ONE 4(7): e6439. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006439
Virginia J. Vitzthum, Indiana University, United States of America
February 12, 2009;
June 26, 2009;
July 30, 2009
2009 D’Anastasio et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio della Provinia di Chieti (www.fondazionecarichieti.it/) Grant numbers: 156/2006; 167/2007; 138/2008. The funders had
no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
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