Does brain size variability provide evidence of multiple species in Homo habilis?

Am J Phys Anthropol. 1991 Apr;84(4):385-98. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.1330840403.


Endocranial volume (ECV) variability as measured by the coefficient of variation (CV) has been important in supporting the view that more than one species is represented in Homo habilis. Supporters of this view used a CV of 10 as a standard to determine that 1) the H. habilis CV of 12.7 indicates multiple species and 2) there is a low probability of H. habilis specimens KNM-ER 1470 and KNM-ER 1813 being members of the same taxon. This study examines published data for ECVs of fossil and extant hominoids to determine whether CV yields any information regarding species number in H. habilis. Results indicate that there is no empirical basis for using a CV of 10 as a standard to detect multiple species in H. habilis. Also, geography, time, sample choice, sex ratio, and measurement technique are complicating factors that must be considered when interpreting CVs for fossil samples. Additionally, the broad 95% statistical confidence limits (5.1-20.3) indicate that the CV estimate of 12.7 for H. habilis is not sufficiently reliable to allow biologically meaningful interpretation. However, if the CV for H. habilis is actually 12.7, it still falls within the range of variation for single species of modern hominoids. The evidence from ECV variability does not support the argument for multiple species in H. habilis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Hominidae / anatomy & histology
  • Hominidae / classification*
  • Humans
  • Sex Ratio
  • Time Factors