New Austalopithecus species discovered

This video is called New Hominid Species Discovery: Australopithecus sediba.

From James Cook University in Australia:

Fossil links human species

Friday, 09 April 2010

A team led by Professor Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa and Professor Paul Dirks now at James Cook University have discovered a new species of hominid believed to be “a good candidate for being the transitional species” between humans and ape-man.

Named Australopithecus sediba the fossils were discovered by Wits University scientists in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and are owned by the people of South Africa.

Two partial skeletons – a juvenile male and an adult female – were found in a cave by Professor Berger about 40km north west of Johannesburg. In fact it was Professor Berger’s nine-year-old son Matthew who found the first remains – a collar bone.

The hominid fossils are arguably the most complete skeletons of early hominids ever discovered and are by far the most complete remains of any hominid dating to around two million years ago.

Two papers relating to the discovery are being published today (April 9) in the journal Science. Professor Berger is lead author on the first paper and Professor Dirks lead author on the second.

The unique find was made after Professors Dirks and Berger embarked on a study on the geological controls of cave distribution and formation in the Cradle of Humankind.

An international team of more than 60 scientists have since been involved in the project including Dr Robyn Pickering of the University of Melbourne and Dr Andrew Herries from the University of New South Wales. Both were involving in dating either the rocks or debris encasing the fossils and are co-authors on the paper with Professor Dirks.

The new species has been named sediba which means natural spring, fountain or wellspring in Sotho, one of the 11 official languages of South Africa.

“Sediba was deemed an appropriate name for a species that might be the point from which the genus Homo arises,” Professor Berger said.

“I believe that this is a good candidate for being the transitional species between the south African ape-man Australopithecus africanus – like Taung Child and Mrs Ples– and either Homo habilis or even a direct ancestor of Homo erectus – like Turkana Boy, Java man or Peking man,” he said.

The team have compared the skeletons with all the remains of fossil hominids that have been discovered and in many ways they are absolutely unique from any fossil species found.

The sediba species has long arms, like an ape, short powerful hands, a very advanced pelvis (hip bone) and long legs capable of striding and possibly running like a human. It is likely that they could have climbed.

“It is estimated that they were both about 1.27 metres tall, although the child would certainly have grown taller. The female probably weighed about 33 kilograms and the child about 27 kilograms at the time of his death,” Professor Berger said.

“The brain size of the juvenile was between 420 and 450 cubic centimetres, which is small (when compared to the human brain of about 1200 to 1600 cubic centimetres) but the shape of the brain seems to be more advanced than that of Australopithecines.

“Our study indicates that Australopithecus sediba could be a better ancestor of Homo erectus than Homo habilis and it may certainly help to clear up some of this ‘muddle in the middle’,” Professor Berger said.

Professor Dirks said that through a combination of faunal, U-Pb and palaeomagnetic dating techniques, the age of the rocks encasing the fossils had been determined at 1.95-1.78 million years ago. Cosmogenic dating was used to interpret the landscape formation and to determine the depth of the cave at the time. …

The skeletons, which were first discovered in August 2008, were found amongst the articulated skeletons of a sabre-toothed cat, antelope, mice and rabbits. They are preserved in a hard, concrete like substance known as calcified clastic sediment that formed at the bottom of what appears to be a shallow underground lake or pool that was possibly about 50 metres tall about 1.9 million years ago.

Is Australopithecus sediba The Best Candidate Ancestor To Our Species? Here.

Australopithecus sediba is a mosaic of modern and primitive traits: here.

Discoverer of ‘Lucy‘ raises questions about Australopithecus sediba, the new human species from South Africa: here.

Not all experts are convinced that the South African discovery of a two-million-year-old hominid is a new species: here.

Electromagnetic radiation revealed parts of the 1.9-million-year-old brain, as well as eggs of insects that fed on it: here. And here.

From the University of New South Wales in Australia:

Skull reveals short ancestor

Friday, 21 May 2010

Our family tree has grown once again with the identification of another new species of early human ancestor, based on a fresh analysis of a partial skull found decades ago in South Africa’s famous Sterkfontein Caves, near Johannesburg.

Identified and named as Homo gautengensis by anthropologist Dr Darren Curnoe, of the UNSW School of Biological, Earth Environmental Sciences, the surprise finding is the earliest recognised species of Homo. While earlier fossils belong to the genus Homo, none have yet been classified in any species.

A few years ago, a separate research group posited that the hominin fossils at Malapa belonged to two different species — in part due to differences in their lumbar vertebrae. However, an analysis by Williams and his colleagues, including two Ph.D. candidates in anthropology at NYU, Jennifer Eyre and Thomas Prang, indicates that both are from A. sediba and that distinctions are due to age: here.

EVOLUTIONARY MISSING LINK FOUND Specimens discovered in South Africa 10 years ago are from a missing link in our knowledge of human evolution, a new study reveals. Researchers discovered that the Australopithecus sediba species is closely related to the Homo genus and fills a key gap in the evolutionary chain between early humans and our more apelike ancestors. [HuffPost]

A team of researchers that included Johns Hopkins University geologist Naomi Levin has found that early hominids living in what is now northern Kenya ate a wider variety of foods than previously thought, including fish and aquatic animals such as turtles and crocodiles. Rich in protein and nutrients, these foods may have played a key role in the development of a larger, more human-like brain in our early forebears, which some anthropologists believe happened around 2 million years ago, according to the researchers’ study: here.

Ancient humans were hungry for hyena: here.

Humans may be near the top of the food chain now, but who were our ancestors’ biggest predators? Read more: here.

Archaeologists have begun trading verbal blows over a set of animal bones said to exhibit the earliest evidence of stone tool-assisted butchery on record. The skirmish raises questions about how archaeological analyses are conducted: here.

Stone fragments found in Georgia suggest Homo erectus might have evolved outside Africa: here.

17 thoughts on “New Austalopithecus species discovered

  1. Java Man takes age to extremes

    April, 18 2010

    Science News

    New age estimates for Homo erectus fossils on the Indonesian island of Java have physical anthropologists scratching their crania.

    After convincing most of their colleagues that H. erectus may have persisted on the Indonesian island of Java as recently as 30,000 years ago – late enough to have coexisted in Asia with modern humans for more than 100,000 years – anthropologists presented new analyses April 14 suggesting the fossils in question may actually predate Homo sapiens by hundreds of thousands of years.

    It all depends which radiometric method you use to assess the fossils’ age, New York University anthropologist Susan Antón reported at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

    Antón and an Indonesian colleague lead a team that first announced in 1996 that sediment at two H. erectus sites on Java dates to between 50,000 and 30,000 years ago. Those “remarkably young” dates, based on analyses of radioactive elements in fossil-bearing sediment, suggest that H. erectus survived well into the era dominated by modern humans, Antón said. Many researchers now accept those dates.

    But a new analysis, based on measurements of radioactive argon’s decay in volcanic rock above and below the fossils, puts H. erectus’ age on Java at roughly 550,000 years. It’s not clear why these estimates differ so dramatically and which one is more accurate, Antón said.

    “It’s confusing right now, but I suspect that Homo erectus’ age on Java is still relatively young,” said Christopher Stringer of London’s Natural History Museum. A new analysis of sediment on Java suggests that animal fossils on the island date to between 200,000 and 150,000 years ago, providing a possible framework for when H. erectus lived there, he added.


  2. Ancient hominid butchers get trampled

    Tool-aided carnivory by Lucy’s kind challenged

    By Bruce Bower

    Put that stone down, Lucy, and back away from the antelope tartare.

    Marks on two fossil bones, recently presented as evidence that Lucy’s ancient hominid species butchered animals for meat, likely resulted from animal trampling, say anthropologist Manuel Dominguez-Rodrigo of Complutense University of Madrid and his colleagues.

    Scientists excavating Ethiopia’s Dikika research area unearthed a pair of 3.4-million-year-old animal bones that, in their view, bear incisions created as Lucy’s kind, Australopithecus afarensis, sliced meat off carcasses with sharp stones found on the landscape (SN: 9/11/10, p. 8). That precedes what had been the earliest butchery marks on animal fossils by about 800,000 years (SN: 4/24/99, p. 262).

    But the experimentally produced trampling damage on animal bones looks much like marks on the allegedly butchered fossils, Dominguez-Rodrigo’s team asserts in an upcoming Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    “The interpretation that primitive creatures like Australopithecus, with chimp-sized brains, were using stone tools 3.4 million years ago and eating meat from large animals is currently unsupported,” Dominguez-Rodrigo says.

    Archaeologist Curtis Marean of Arizona State University in Tempe, a coauthor of the carnivorous-Lucy paper, rejects Dominguez-Rodrigo’s argument. Some marks on experimentally trampled bones resemble those in photographs of the Dikika bones, but two deep incisions on one fossil look far more like butchery marks than like any reported trampling damage, Marean says.

    In addition, Dominguez-Rodrigo initially compared trampling damage to butchery marks produced by human-made stone tools, not stones with naturally sharp edges. Lucy’s kind probably collected sharp stones rather than making them, in Marean’s view. Stones that happen to have sharp edges create butchery marks resembling much of the damage on the Dikika bones, he asserts.

    Both Dikika fossils were surface finds. It’s hard to know whether they originally rested in a nearby sand bed — as argued by their discoverers — or came loose from harder sediment, Dominguez-Rodrigo says. If the fossils broke free from surrounding material, abrasive soil could have created many of the cuts and scratches attributed to stone tools, he suggests.

    If the fossils lay in a sand bed, animal trampling would have produced marks indistinguishable from those cited as butchery damage, in his view.

    Those conclusions rest on comparisons of damage to the Dikika bones with animal bones trampled in a 2009 study directed by Dominguez-Rodrigo. Three men of varying weights, wearing shoes with soles covered by coarse grass, walked across deer bones that had been placed in a sandy mix similar to the Dikika sand bed.

    Two minutes of trampling resulted in long, thin indentations that were \_/-shaped in cross-section. Animal butchery with stone tools rarely results in such bone damage, but signature trampling marks appear on the Dikika bones, Dominguez-Rodrigo says.

    Incisions attributed to butchery by Marean don’t look like typical trampling marks, but cuts such as those still sometimes appear on experimentally trampled bones, Dominguez-Rodrigo adds.


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  7. New hominid species found

    Wednesday 08 August 2012

    Our ancient ancestors could have lived alongside two other hominids, experts believe.

    Dig teams in Kenya have found homo erectus bones near stranger skull shards – with a large brain case and long, flat face.

    Professor Fred Spoor of University College London said today the fossils “give a much clearer picture” of the human race’s starting blocks.

    Alongside homo habilis, there may have been three separate species of hominid.


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