Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fossil discovery supports evolutionary link between Australopiths and Homo

Date:
September 8, 2011
Source:
Texas A&M University
Summary:
Skeletal remains found in a South African cave may yield new clues to human development and answer key questions of the evolution of the human lineage, according to a new series of papers.

Skeletal remains found in a South African cave may yield new clues to human development and answer key questions of the evolution of the human lineage, according to a series of papers released in the journal Science co-written by a Texas A&M University anthropology professor.

Related Articles


Researcher Darryl de Ruiter is part of an international team that examined the discovery in a cave about 30 miles northwest of Johannesburg and originally found in 2008. This same team named the new species, Australopithecus sediba, in April 2010. The team, composed of members from U.S., African, European and Australian universities, found multiple individuals of Australopithecus sediba that show both human-like and ape-like characteristics intermediate between Australopithecus and present-day humans.

"The key message is that these remains appear to be a transitional form of Australopithecus, intermediate between earlier australopiths and later Homo, the genus to which present-day humans belong," de Ruiter explains. "We examined the remains and found several distinct individuals -- possibly representing a family group. They all seemed to have died suddenly in the same event about 1.9 million years ago, but the remains are in surprisingly good shape."

Australopithecus is a genus of hominins now extinct. Ape-like in structure, yet walking bipedally similar to modern humans, they are believed to have played a significant role in human evolution, and it is generally held among anthropologists that a form of Australopithecus eventually evolved into Homo.

De Ruiter says key sections of the remains, such as the brain, foot, hand and pelvis, show characteristics aligning them both with australopiths and with Homo, suggesting that Australopithecus sediba represents the australopith ancestor of Homo.

"The skulls are small, which is what you might expect, but their morphology shows it housed a brain shaped much like a human's," he notes. "The pelvis and foot are also similar in that regard. The foot, for example, shows an ankle that looks like human-like, but the heel is shaped more like that of an ape. But again, all of the remains appear to represent an evolutionary intermediary between Australopithecus and humans."

De Ruiter says the lifestyles of the creatures were similar to apes. Although they walked upright, they also used their long arms for moving around in the trees to feed and to sleep. Like most primates, they lived together in groups, explaining why the skeletons were found together.

"The skulls are particularly interesting because they show how the brain reorganized and changed in shape over time," he notes. "We suspect that something happened around two million years ago with Australopithecus. It went from an australopith way of making a living to a more human-like way of making a living. Whatever event that caused these particular individuals to die happened quickly, and their bones appeared to have calcified almost immediately. The skeletons were all found very close to each other, with some basically lying on top of another."

"It's a great find," he adds, "because it provides strong confirmation for Darwin's theories about evolution."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Texas A&M University. 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. 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:

Texas A&M University. "Fossil discovery supports evolutionary link between Australopiths and Homo." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908104203.htm>.
Texas A&M University. (2011, September 8). Fossil discovery supports evolutionary link between Australopiths and Homo. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908104203.htm
Texas A&M University. "Fossil discovery supports evolutionary link between Australopiths and Homo." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908104203.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Amphipolis Tomb Architraves Reveal Faces

Amphipolis Tomb Architraves Reveal Faces

AFP (Nov. 22, 2014) — Faces in an area of mosaics is the latest find by archaeologists at a recently discovered tomb dating back to fourth century BC and the time of Alexander the Great in Greece. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
US Returns Looted Artifacts to Thailand

US Returns Looted Artifacts to Thailand

AFP (Nov. 19, 2014) — The United States has returns over 500 vases, bowls, axes, and other ancient artifacts mostly from the Ban Chiang archaeological site which were illegally looted from Thailand decades ago. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Search Through Every Public Tweet Sent Since 2006

How To Search Through Every Public Tweet Sent Since 2006

Newsy (Nov. 19, 2014) — Twitter has announced improvements to its search index that allow users to search through every public tweet sent since its inception in 2006. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Unlocks the Mystery of Paintings

Professor Unlocks the Mystery of Paintings

AP (Nov. 19, 2014) — Richard Johnson, a computer and engineering professor at Cornell University, is using technology to uncover mysteries about the age and authenticity of historic paintings by artists like Johannes Vermeer and Vincent Van Gogh. (Nov. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

More Coverage


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

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins