ID Challenge #22: The Bone Collector

After a long hiatus, it is time to resurrect BitB Challenge Session #7 with this very unusual ID Challenge. Some of you may know (and most probably don’t) that, among my many other hobbies, I am a bit of an armchair paleoanthropologist. Over the years I have assembled replicas of a few of the more significant fossil hominid finds that have shaped our understanding of human evolution. For this challenge, identify the fossils shown below with 1) “nickname” of the fossil (2 pts), 2) currently accepted genus (2 pts) and species (2 pts) assignment, 3) country of origin (2 pts), and 4) approximate age (2 pts). Comments will be held in moderation while the challenge is open to give all a chance to play. Answers will be revealed in the next couple of days or so.

p.s. Don’t be afraid to try—I’ll be surprised (and impressed) if anybody gets a clean sweep of the points. Good luck!

Update: Bonus question (to be used in case of a tiebreaker)—which of these is my favorite, and why (up to 5 pts)?

BitB ID Challenge #22

© Copyright Ted C. MacRae 2013

30 thoughts on “ID Challenge #22: The Bone Collector

  1. Starting on the upper left: “Turkana Boy” aka “Nariokotome Boy”, (KNM-WT 15000); Homo ergaster (formerly H. erectus); found at Nariokotome, near Lake Turkana, Kenya; age estimated to be 8 years old, but you probably wanted 1.5 MYA. Top middle: “Nutcracker Man” or “Dear Boy”, (OH5); Paranthropus (Australopithecus) boisei; found in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania; 1.75 MYA. Top right: “original skull” (not “Eurydice”); Paranthropus (Australopithecus) robustus; found in South Africa, 1938; 1 MYA. Bottom left: “The Black Skull”, (KNM WT 17000); Paranthropus (Australopithecus) aethiopicus; found in West Turkana, Kenya; 2.5 MYA. Bottom middle: “Mrs Ples”; Australopithecus africanus, found at Sterkfonten, South Africa, 1947; 2.05 MYA. Bottom right: “Taung Child” or “Taung Baby”; Australopithecus africanus (formerly A. afarensis); found at Taung, South Africa, 1924; 3-4 years old, 2.5 MYA.

    • Very good, Dennis. The only thing I would have dinged you on is the age of P. robustus from South Africa, but I see you corrected it in a later post. Not counting your bonus answer you earn the maximum 58 pts (there is no common name for the South African P. robustus fossil).

  2. 1 “Turkana Boy” or “Nariokotome Boy”
    Homo ergaster
    1.5 million years

    2 “Nutcracker Man”
    Paranthropus boisei
    2.3–1.2 million years

    3 “TM1517”
    Paranthropus robustus
    South Africa
    2.0–1.8 millions years

    4 “Black Skull”
    Paranthropus aethiopicus
    2.7–2.3 million years

    5 “Mrs. Ples”
    Australopithecus africanus
    South Africa
    2.1 million years

    6 “Taung Child”
    Australopithecus africanus
    South Africa
    2.5 million years

  3. I was rereading my answer and thought the age I placed on Paranthropus robustus awfully young. It should have read “2 MYA” not “1 MYA”.

  4. 1. 1) “Turkana Boy” 2) Homo ergaster 3) Kenya 4) 1.6 million-years-old
    2. 1) “Nutcracker Man” or “Dear Boy” 2) Paranthropus boisei 3) Tanzania 4) 1.75 million-years-old
    3. 1) “SK 48” 2) Paranthropus robustus 3) South Africa 4) 1.8 million-years-old
    4. 1) “The Black Skull” 2) Paranthropus aethiopicus 3) Kenya 4) 2.5 million-years-old
    5. 1) “Mrs. Ples” 2) Australopithecus africanus 3) South Africa 4) 2.04 million-years-old
    6. 1) “Taung Child” 2) Australopithecus africanus 3) South Africa 4) 2.5 million-years-old

    I’m reasonably sure about all but the third one. If that is the correct specimen (SK 48), I could not find a nickname for it, so perhaps it is the wrong individual. I think the species is correct anyway.

    • For the bonus question, I believe you implied on a guest blog post on Christopher Taylor’s excellent Catalogue of Organisms that your favorite was “Mrs. Ples” Australopithecus africanus, STS 5). You said you felt strongly that you were looking at a direct ancestor standing before you, paraphrasing the cofinder, Robert Broom’s famous statement about another fossil of the same species (“Taung Child”, also represented in the quiz).

    • Perfect as usual – you get the maximum 58 pts.

      Your answer to the bonus question is also spot on, so you get the maximum 5 pts for a perfect total score of 63 pts and the win!

      Interesting that you’re the second person to mention “Dear Boy” as a nickname for OH 5. I’ve not come across that anywhere – other than Nutcracker Man I’ve only seen “Zinj.”

  5. Okay, here are my educated guesses, I can’t wait to find out if they are right!

    4.) First specimen of Australopithecus aethiopicus (also known as) Paraustralopithecus aethiopicus) or Omo 18 (also nicknamed black skull), found in southern Ethiopia, 2.5 million years old.
    6.) Another Australopithecus africanus, nicknamed Taung Child or Taung Baby, about 2.5 million years old, and was found near Taung South Africa.
    1.) I think its the Turkana boy, or the Nariokotome boy, recently classified as Homo ergaster, only 1.5 million years old! Found at Lake Turkana in Kenya.
    5.) Maybe Mrs. Ples, Australopithecus africanus, somewhere between 2.5 and 2.1 million years old, found in Sterkfontein, Republic of South Africa.
    2.) Nutcracker Man, Paranthropus boisei, about 1.8 million years old, found in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania.
    3.) Okay, this took me a long time to find but I think its SK 48, a Paranthropus robustus, between 1.8 and 1.5 million years old, found in Swatkrans, Republic of South Africa.

    • Hi tandemtrekking. Almost perfect – 54 of 58 pts. #4 is actually Paranthropus aethiopicus, and it was found in Kenya rather than Ethiopia (the type fossil of the species is Omo 18, a partial mandible found in Ethiopia).

    • The bonus question definitely favored those who have paid attention to this blog for awhile, but when I Googled “MacRae paleoanthropology” a link to my guest post at Catalogue of Organisms was the first hit. Nevertheless, I agree that getting attacked and killed by an eagle is a pretty badass legacy, so I’ll give you 3 pts for the answer.

      New total = 57 pts.

  6. 1. Lucy, Australopithecus aferensis, East Africa, 3-4 million years
    2. Nutcracker Man, Paranthropus bosie, Kenya, 1.75 million years
    3. ?, Paranthropus robustus, S. Africa, 2-1.2 million years
    4. Paranthropus spp.?
    5. Altamura man?, Homo heidelbergensis?, Europe, 400,000-100,000 years
    6. Twiggy?, Homo habilis, Tanzania, 1.75 million years

    Favorite is Nutcracker Man (#2)?

    • Hey Tyler – pretty good guesses worth a total of 20 pts. Consider these points in the bank that will help your overall position for the next challenge (points leaders at the end of this series get prizes).

      • Not too bad since I don’t know all that much about paleoanthropology. Gotta start somewhere, right? Hoping I’ll be able to climb up the points list since the previous ID challenges have seemed like a lot of fun!

  7. I’d have to guess “Turkana Boy”. Of all the skulls he is your closest ancestor, the one you can most relate to. He is the most complete ancient human skeleton and clearly shows an upright habit, though still a good tree climber. That and he was found by Richard Leaky. The Leaky name still holds a bit of fascination for those who study ancient hominids.

    A close second is probably “Nutcracker Man”. A fairly complete skull with a cool name!

    The problem with guessing which is your favorite is that we can’t look into your mind and see what you see in the skulls…what they represent to you as an individual. Are you looking at them for their scientific value or are you look at them as distant kinfolk? They are all special, and add to our knowledge of where we came from.

    • While this wasn’t the answer I was looking for (see Ben Coulter’s bonus question answer), it is a good one and noteworthy that Turkana Boy is the only one of the fossils in a near-direct position in our lineage. I’ll give you 3 pts for a new total of 61 pts.

  8. As for your bonus question, I really have no idea but will have a stab anyway. I’m going to say that your favorite is Nutcracker Man (#2 in your image) because the coloration of the skull closely resembles the markings of Missouri specimens of the prairie tiger beetle, Cicindelidia obsoleta vulturina which, if I recall correctly, is one of your favorite tigers.

  9. I’ll give it a try.
    #1 – Homo ergaster, 1.6 mya, Nariokotome Bay, Kenya, Nariokotome Boy
    #2 – Paranthropus boisei, 1.8 mya, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, Nutcracker Man
    #3 – Paranthropus robustus, 1.8 mya, Southern Africa
    #4 – Paranthropus aethiopicus, 2.5 mya, Lake Turkana, Kenya, Black Skull
    #5 – Australopithecus africanus, 2.5 mya, Transvaal, South Africa, Mrs. Ples
    #6 – Australopithecus africanus, 2.5 mya, Taung, South Africa, Taung Child


    • Hi Mike – your answers are perfect and earn the maximum 58 pts.

      Somewhere along the line your bonus question answer went missing (sorry!). It wasn’t what I was looking for, but the rationale was worth at least a couple of points—new total = 60 pts.

  10. Thanks to all who played. You can see by my latest post that the answers have been revealed. I’ll award points soon in the form of replies to your comments.

    p.s. information about these fossils can vary from site to site, especially regarding their classification and age. I won’t be too picky as long as the age given is within the commonly cited range. For my follow up post I have used Smithsonian Intitution’s Human Origins site for the stated age ranges.


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