‘Scientists find missing ancestral link in Sediba’
Scientists at Wits university have revealed new evidence that suggests that Australopithecus sediba might have been our direct ancestor.
This evidence, that is been presented at the Origins Centre at Wits University, puts forward the idea that Sediba might clear up the problem of the “muddle in the middle” and may be a better ancestor for Homo erectus, the species from which Homo sapiens are believed to have evolved.
The Scientists argue this in five papers that have appeared in the latest journal of Science.
What the papers deal with are aspects of the two skeletons that were discovered at the Malapa site, three years ago.
One of the papers describes the most complete hand ever described in an early ancestor of man.
Also examined is an undistorted pelvis, the most accurate brain scan of an early hominin and pieces of the foot and ankle.
The scientists were also able to obtain a date for the two skeletons, of 1,977 million years, one of the most accurate ever achieved. A margin of error of just 3000 years over close to two million years.
What the team explain in the papers is that the sediba showed a combination of features that are both primitive and advanced and never seen before in a hominin.
“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,” explained Professor Lee Berger of the Institute of Human Evolution at Wits University.
He suggests that the advanced features make sediba the best candidate ancestor for our genus that of Homo.
It was only last year that Berger and other team members announced the discovery of two skeletons, an adult female and child. At the time the two were the best preserved early hominin skeletons ever to be found.
The site has since produced well over 220 bones and scientists believe there are five other hominins, including the remains of babies, juveniles and adults. - The Star