Variation in talus morphology shows the sample

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This is the kind of thing I never get tired of: Figure S7 from the supplement of the Malapa foot paper by Bernhard Zipfel and colleagues Zipfel:Malapa:2011.

Figure S7 from Zipfel et al. 2011. Original caption: "Fossil hominin tali in distal view. Left tali have been reversed so that they all appear from the right side. All tali have been scaled so that the trochlear body is the same mediolateral width. There is tremendous variation in the torsion angle of the head, and in the grooving of the trochlea in fossil hominins. Notable in this orientation is the remarkably large talar head of U.W. 88-98."

We see too many papers where a fossil is displayed next to a chimpanzee and a human, maybe another hominin, as if they were Platonic types. Here we see immediately the variation among a good sample of hominin tali from East and South Africa. Four from Sterkfontein and four from Turkana, so you can see variation within those samples arrayed right across the figure. A figure like this takes more interpretation than a graph showing measurements or principal components, but it has a visual impact that a Cartesian plot can’t match.