A University of California study has done medical scans of shoulder blade fossils from prehistoric Australopithecus hominids A. afarensis and A. sediba and modern people and determined that compared to the measurements of modern apes, gibbons, orangutans, and monkeys, that early man likely appeared to look like a chimp or gorilla rather than a monkey or orangutan.

It is believed that humans began to break off from the African apes who are in the scientific genus Pan, which also is where chimps are, about six or seven million years in the past. The study used 3D projections of the shapes of the shoulder bones to do the measurements.

Early Man is Still Unique in Multiple Ways

The shoulder blade study also found that even with this new comparison, early man was still somewhat unique in multiple ways. While man’s ancestors have links with the apes, some of their features seem more primitive, which still leaves some questions on exactly what prehistoric humans looked like.

For instance, a modern human has a shoulder shape that has a lateral orientation that is the same as an orangutan, while the scapular blade shape is like those of the African ape.

Shape of Shoulder Blade Gave Several Advantages

The study compared the information from the trowel shape of a modern African ape and found that shape gives them a big advantage in being able to do things like climb or swing through the trees. This caused some confusion as to the exact makeup of early man and his shoulder shape, because the comparisons showed the ape shoulder blades slowly evolved to have a shoulder that was downward oriented, which helps to show scientists when prehistoric man started to come down from the trees and make tools, so they didn’t need that shape of the shoulder that helped the apes to swing or climb in the trees.

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Study Would be Better With Common Ancestor Fossils

The researchers admitted that if they had fossils of a common ancestor or missing link for ancient humans that the results would be more ideal, but that without such fossils being available, to use techniques that are multifaceted is the next best answer to solving the problem of what ancient humans looked like.

They believe that the shoulder shape evolved and became closer to what modern man’s shoulder shape is now because it helped them to better use tools and throw spears. The scientists hope that they can use their research on shoulder blades to not only see what ancient man looked like, but to also help doctors prevent shoulder injuries in their patients by better understanding its evolution.