For over twenty years, the young, male Homo erectus specimen KNM-WT 15000 has been the focus of studies on growth and development, locomotion, size, sexual dimorphism, skeletal morphology, and encephalization, often serving as the standard for his species. Prior research on KNM-WT 15000 operates under the assumption that H. erectus experienced a modern human life history, including an adolescent growth spurt. However, recent fossil discoveries, improvements in research methods, and new insights into modern human ontogeny suggest that this may not have been the case. In this study, we examine alternative life history trajectories in H. erectus to re-evaluate adult stature estimates for KNM-WT 15000. We constructed a series of hypothetical growth curves by modifying known human and chimpanzee curves, calculating intermediate growth velocities, and shifting the age of onset and completion of growth in stature. We recalculated adult stature for KNM-WT 15000 by increasing stature at death by the percentage of growth remaining in each curve. The curve that most closely matches the life history events experienced by KNM-WT 15000 prior to death indicates that growth in this specimen would have been completed by 12.3 years of age. These results suggest that KNM-WT 15000 would have experienced a growth spurt that had a lower peak velocity and shorter duration than the adolescent growth spurt in modern humans. As a result, it is likely that KNM-WT 15000 would have only attained an adult stature of 163 cm (∼ 5'4 ″), not 185 cm (∼ 6'1 ″) as previously reported. KNM-WT 15000's smaller stature has important implications for evolutionary scenarios involving early genus Homo.
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