New species of early hominid found

Apr 06, 2010 by Lin Edwards report
Image credit: DailyMail Online.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A previously unknown species of hominid that lived in what is now South Africa around two million years ago has been found in the form of a fossilized skeleton of a child and several bones of adults. The new species may be a transitional stage between ape-like hominids and Homo habilis, the first recognizably human ancestor of Homo sapiens.

The skeleton and bones were discovered in the Sterkfontein area near Johannesburg by researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand. The team, led by Professor Lee Berger, were exploring the Malapa cave systems, in which an almost complete fossilized Australopithecus skeleton was discovered in 1994. The limestone caves are now a UNESCO world heritage site and an area that has been extensively excavated to unearth its paleontological treasures.

Professor Phillip Tobias from the University of the Witwatersrand said the findings were exciting because it is rare to find a skeleton; a few bones or teeth are more commonly discovered. Professor Tobias was involved in the identification of Homo habilis as a new human species in 1964, and said the specimens found by Professor Berger and colleagues were “wonderful”.

Full details of the as-yet unnamed discovery have not been released, but since the finds include fossils of an almost complete they should be able to reveal information on the gait and posture of the species, and the dexterity of their hands. The scientists should also be able to infer from the structure of the feet whether or not the species was primarily arboreal. The dating of the fossils places them in the period in which complex stone tool use and language were emerging, and when were abandoning the trees permanently.

Africa is widely accepted as the “Cradle of Mankind,” where simple primates evolved into the common ancestor of humans and great apes. The gave way to two branches that diverged about six million years ago, with one evolving into species such as chimpanzees and gorillas, and the other evolving into the upright-walking Australopithecus afarenus, an ape-like species that emerged around 3.9 million years ago, and the later Homo habilis, which emerged about 2.5 million years ago, and which used complex stone tools and had several human-like traits, including a much larger brain.

The fossils of the new species have been kept out of public view, but have been viewed by South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma. Very few scientists have so far seen the finds, but they will be officially unveiled on Thursday.

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User comments : 10

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trekgeek1
not rated yet Apr 06, 2010
One more transitional nail in the creationist coffin. Yes, I realize that less fanatical creationists can reconcile their beliefs with this discovery, but the fervent fanatics that deny evolution will find this exceptionally distressing.
Feldagast
not rated yet Apr 06, 2010
Creationist need to ask themselves, how long is a DAY to god. A day to god could be 1 million years, and then evolution might make more sense to the creationists.
S_Bilderback
Apr 07, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
LuckyBrandon
1 / 5 (1) Apr 07, 2010
ID is only real if part of its intelligence is chaos, madness, and random chance....

Feldagast-someone actually came up with a mathematical calculation for that...forgot who though...
mabarker
1 / 5 (1) Apr 09, 2010
Feldagast had nothing to say about this story but only used it for his anti-Christian springboard (e.g. *god* in lwr case). Meanwhile, the above picture is your typical iconic image of the march of darwinian progress from ape to man, complete with racist skin colors and sexist depictions of naked males only. Sharon Begley of Newsweek (149[12]:54) stated that all the scientific *experts* who have presented the *old linear model* of human evolution have been wrong (e.g. the above picture).
In regard to this discovery, Berger appeals to *hope*! No one is claiming these fossils clarify a human evolution story. Hopes that it might are put in future tense: *This new Australopithecus sediba species might eventually clear up that debate, and help to reveal our direct human ancestors* (Berger, Science v. 328)
LuckyBrandon
1 / 5 (1) Apr 09, 2010
mabarker-you sound like a feminist. BUT, you are absolutely right, that evolutionary diagram is completely outdated. The tree/bush view of eveolution would have been better to go with...
Honestly, women likely did come first and probably would be a better representation. I say that since it takes more growing as a fetus to become male...it would make sense if our evolutionary background were similar, with females apparently being the slightly simpler organism (and nobody take that wrong...)
Ethelred
not rated yet Apr 14, 2010
Honestly, women likely did come first and probably would be a better representation.


Species have TWO sexes. Either sex can have a significant mutation. It matters not which sex has it. It could even be a male that had a change for the uterus that didn't get expressed until he female progeny.

Yes the picture is a matter of tradition. A male tradition. If you want to change it start produces the images. Or pay someone to do it.

with females apparently being the slightly simpler organism


Maybe at the DNA level. Men have less complexity in the the Y chromosome but both women and men have the X chromosome.

Ethelred
Ethelred
not rated yet Apr 14, 2010
haron Begley of Newsweek (149[12]:54) stated that all the scientific *experts* who have presented the *old linear model* of human evolution have been wrong (e.g. the above picture).

Hardly the first to do so. Darwin didn't use a linear model either.
Feldagast had nothing to say about this story but only used it for his anti-Christian springboard (e.g. *god* in lwr case).
You could consider it a preemptive strike. Usually YOU use these sorts of articles to promote Creationism through ignorance and disinformation. This might be your first post on a biology discussion where you didn't do that.

So, congratulations on that.
anti-Christian springboard (e.g. *god* in lwr case
That would be anti-RELIGION. Any generic us of the word 'god' should be lower case unless named. Unless you are a believer. He isn't.

Indian 'gods' but Shiva for instance. Jewish 'gods' but Jehova for another. Then again in the English Bibles gods or Elohim are translated as the Lord.

Ethelred
LuckyBrandon
1 / 5 (1) Apr 15, 2010
Species have TWO sexes


Not true...there are asexual species, and it is possible at some point in our evolution we were exactly that...talking prior to even tree climbing of course...
Feldagast
not rated yet Apr 18, 2010
Mabarker I am not anti-religion, using lowercase letters is just my sloppy way of typing. I guess your using that screen name means you approve of murder and bank robbery.
Ethelred
not rated yet Apr 20, 2010
Not true...there are asexual species,


Which mostly reproduce photogenically and therefor are not species in the same sense as humans.

and it is possible at some point in our evolution we were exactly that.


Long before the existence of vertebrates.

In this case I was simply pointing out that male and female members of sexually reproducing species can have mutations that propagate in EITHER sex.

Ethelred

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