Brief communication: predatory bird damage to the Taung type-skull of Australopithecus africanus Dart 1925

Am J Phys Anthropol. 2006 Oct;131(2):166-8. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.20415.


In this issue of the Journal, McGraw et al. ([2006] Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 000:00-00) present new data on the taphonomic signature of bone assemblages accumulated by crowned hawk eagles (Stephanoaetus coronatus), including characteristic talon damage to the inferior orbits of primates preyed upon by these birds. Reexamination of the Taung juvenile hominin specimen (the type specimen of Australopithecus africanus Dart 1925) reveals previously undescribed damage to the orbital floors that is nearly identical to that seen in the crania of monkeys preyed upon by crowned hawk eagles (as reported by McGraw et al., this issue). This new evidence, along with previously described aspects of the nonhominin bone assemblage from Taung and damage to the neurocranium of the hominin specimen itself, strongly supports the hypothesis that a bird of prey was an accumulating agent at Taung, and that the Taung child itself was the victim of a bird of prey.

Publication types

  • Comment
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eagles*
  • Fossils
  • Head Injuries, Penetrating / history*
  • History, Ancient
  • Hominidae*
  • Paleontology
  • Predatory Behavior*
  • Skull / injuries
  • Skull / pathology
  • South Africa