Revisiting the peroneal trochlea of the StW 352 calcaneus

Ellison J. McNutt, Alexander G. Claxton, Kristian J. Carlson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


StW 352, from Sterkfontein Member 4 (South Africa), is a partial calcaneus attributed to Australopithecus africanus and is dated to 2.0-2.6 Ma. The unusual robusticity of the peroneal trochlea (PT) of StW 352 has been commented on by several authors. The size of hominin PTs has been hypothesised to be positively correlated with the degree of recruitment of peroneus longus during bipedal locomotion and/ or climbing. Given the potential functional relevance of an enlarged PT for reconstructing hominin activity patterns, we present the following previously unrecognised structural details of the reconstructed StW 352 that affect current interpretations of its functional morphology: (1) we estimate that the PT has been reattached to the body of the calcaneus 5 mm dorso-distally from its original anatomical position; and (2) the presence of intrusive matrix has artificially misshaped the PT by expanding it laterally and proximodistally. Future studies of this specimen that apply geometric morphometrics, or other shape analysis tools, should compensate for these inaccuracies before undertaking comparisons between it and other calcanei. Additionally, given that the PT is likely smaller than previously reported for StW 352, caution should be exercised when using it to infer muscle function and extrapolate activity patterns of this individual, and thus by extension, within Australopithecus africanus in general. Lastly, these findings highlight the importance of not only the production of accurate reconstructions, but also the critical evaluation of the accuracy of existing reconstructions when working with damaged fossil material.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2017-0306
JournalSouth African Journal of Science
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Australopithecus africanus
  • Foot eversion
  • MicroCT
  • Peroneus longus
  • Sterkfontein


Dive into the research topics of 'Revisiting the peroneal trochlea of the StW 352 calcaneus'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this