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New evidence suggests that Au. sediba is the best candidate for the genus Homo

Date:
September 8, 2011
Source:
University of the Witwatersrand
Summary:
A series of papers based on new evidence pertaining to various aspects of the anatomy of the species Australopithecus sediba reveals new, important elements attributed to Au. Sediba, the two type skeletons -- an analysis of the most complete hand ever described in an early hominin, the most complete undistorted pelvis ever discovered, the most accurate scan of an early human ancestors brain, new pieces of the foot and ankle, and one of the most accurate dates ever achieved for an early hominin site in Africa.

Au. sediba (MH-1) skull reconstruction (opaque) with endocast (green, opaque) partially visible as a result of virtual craniotomy.
Credit: Dr Kristian Carlson, courtesy of the University of the Witwatersrand

A series of five papers based on new evidence pertaining to various aspects of the anatomy of the species Australopithecus sediba (announced in April 2010 by Berger et al), will appear in the journal Science on Sept. 9, 2011.

The papers will reveal new, important elements attributed to the two type skeletons, which will include an analysis of the most complete hand ever described in an early hominin, the most complete undistorted pelvis (hip bone) ever discovered, the highest resolution and most accurate scan of an early human ancestors brain ever made, new pieces of the foot and ankle skeleton, and one of the most accurate, if not the most accurate dates ever achieved for an early hominin site in Africa.

According to Prof. Lee Berger, a Reader in Evolution at the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, Au. sediba demonstrates a surprisingly unique combination of features, never before seen in an early human ancestor.

"The fossils demonstrate a surprisingly advanced but small brain, a very evolved hand with a long thumb like a humans, a very modern pelvis, but a foot and ankle shape never seen in any hominin species that combines features of both apes and humans in one anatomical package. The many very advanced features found in the brain and body, and the earlier date make it possibly the best candidate ancestor for our genus, the genus Homo, more so than previous discoveries such as Homo habilis."

Since its discovery in August 2008, the site of Malapa has yielded well over 220 bones of early hominins representing more than five individuals, including the remains of babies, juveniles and adults.

Given the open access policy of the team, sediba is already one of the best studied hominin species yet discovered.

The team studying these fossils is one of the largest ever assembled in the history of archaeology or palaeontology. With more than 80 scientists, students and technicians from across the globe involved in the study, the teams expertise range from geologists, computer specialists, functional morphologists and anatomists, to physicists.

This is one of the largest collection of scientific papers ever produced by an African based team or University, on a single subject to be published in a journal of this impact level.

For more information, including images, podcasts and video material, visit: http://www.wits.ac.za/sediba


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of the Witwatersrand. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Kristian J. Carlson, Dietrich Stout, Tea Jashashvili, Darryl J. De Ruiter, Paul Tafforeau, Keely Carlson, Lee R. Berger. The Endocast of MH1, Australopithecus sediba. Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1126/science.1203922
  2. Job M. Kibii, Steven E. Churchill, Peter Schmid, Kristian J. Carlson, Nichelle D. Reed, Darryl J. De Ruiter, Lee R. Berger. A Partial Pelvis of Australopithecus sediba. Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1126/science.1202521
  3. Tracy L. Kivell, Job M. Kibii, Steven E. Churchill, Peter Schmid, Lee R. Berger. Australopithecus sediba Hand Demonstrates Mosaic Evolution of Locomotor and Manipulative Abilities. Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1126/science.1202625
  4. Bernhard Zipfel, Jeremy M. Desilva, Robert S. Kidd, Kristian J. Carlson, Steven E. Churchill, Lee R. Berger. The Foot and Ankle of Australopithecus sediba. Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1126/science.1202703
  5. Robyn Pickering, Paul H. G. M. Dirks, Zubair Jinnah, Darryl J. De Ruiter, Steven E. Churchil, Andy I. R. Herries, Jon D. Woodhead, John C. Hellstrom, Lee R. Berger. Australopithecus sediba at 1.977 Ma and Implications for the Origins of the Genus Homo. Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1126/science.1203697

Cite This Page:

University of the Witwatersrand. "New evidence suggests that Au. sediba is the best candidate for the genus Homo." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908104016.htm>.
University of the Witwatersrand. (2011, September 8). New evidence suggests that Au. sediba is the best candidate for the genus Homo. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908104016.htm
University of the Witwatersrand. "New evidence suggests that Au. sediba is the best candidate for the genus Homo." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908104016.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

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Direct Ancestor of Homo Genus? Fossils Show Human-Like Hand, Brain and Pelvis in Early Hominin

Sep. 8, 2011 The Australopithecus sediba discovered in 2008 could be the direct ancestor of the Homo genus. That is the conclusion of an international team of scientists. The researchers describe in five papers ... read more
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