Navigation Links
IU's Carlson among team of scientists announcing new species of prehistoric man

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University anthropologist Kristian J. Carlson today (April 8) joined an international team of six other scientists announcing discovery of the fossil remains of a new species of early man that could help rewrite the path of human evolution.

The two partial skeletons, dating from between 1.78 and 1.95 million years old, were discovered in South Africa and appear to represent features and attributes closer to humans -- the genus Homo -- than those from any other of our closest ancestors, the australopithecines. The new species, Australopithecus sediba, was announced today in the magazine Science by principal investigator Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and a team of six other researchers that included IU Bloomington's Carlson.

The fossil remains of the two hominids were found about a half-meter apart, embedded in cave deposits at the Malapa excavation site located about 170 miles northeast of Johannesburg and about nine miles northeast of the Sterkfontein World Heritage Site, also called the Cradle of Humankind. The first adult australopithecine was found in Sterkfontein in 1936.

It has generally been recognized that Australopithicus lost apelike attributes and began standing upright and evidencing increased brain capacity before evolving into the genus Homo. The Malapa researchers found that the new Au. sediba differs from other australopiths and is aligned to Homo by sharing attributes like increased buttressing of the ilium, expansion of the posterior ilium, and a decrease in the distance between the hip joints and sacroiliac. The new species also differs from the earlier australopiths in having reduced cranial muscle markings, more delicate facial morphology and smaller teeth, as well as in other craniodental and postcranial details.

The new species is still similar to other australopiths by virtue of its small body size and its longer upper limbs with large joint surfaces, among other things, they said.

Paleoanthropologists believe the discovery marks a new link between the traits of the more rugged Australopithecus africanus that was present 1 million years earlier and the later taxon Homo habilis that eventually evolved into Homo erectus.

"Being a member of the team interpreting the Malapa fossils is an extraordinary privilege in that I have an opportunity to be at the forefront of paleoanthropology," Carlson said. "I feel a duty to the field to proceed with cautious scientific analysis, but yet there is also the undeniable excitement of being able to study and interpret previously unknown morphologies and constellations of traits."

As a core member of the Malapa team Carlson led the analyses of particular components of the discoveries and was responsible for directing all virtual work involving the fossils, as well as several aspects of structural interpretation of morphology in the fossils. Currently a senior researcher and research associate in IU Bloomington's Department of Anthropology, Carlson received his MA and PhD in anthropology from IU after receiving BS degrees in anthropology and anthropology-zoology from the University of Michigan. He completed post-doctoral work in the Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University, and in the Anthropologisches Institut und Museum, Universitt Zrich.

Some of his areas of specialization include the examination of morphological variability in extant and fossil ape limb anatomy, experimental analyses of primate gait kinetics and kinematics, and studying form-function relationships in vertebrate limb anatomy. Through examination of computed tomography scans (CT) scans of bone cross sections Carlson can use mathematical models to estimate bone strengths of primates, modern hunter-gatherers and other mammals.

IU anthropology Professor Kevin Hunt, Carlson's adviser when the student received his PhD in 2002, described the discovery as "amazing" in that it not only creates newly-identified links between the australopiths and Homo, but also because it suggests that the transition between the small-bodied Au. africanus and the bipedal H. erectus occurred not only in East Africa, but across the whole of African, including South Africa.

"The fossils clearly link fossils in East Africa to South Africa," he said. "Some paleontologists tend to think that we evolved from something in East Africa, and South Africa was just a sort of dead end. This fossil shows that the same trends seen in East Africa were also seen in South Africa -- they're just regional versions of the same thing."

"The discovery is an amazing one. It's late enough that it is contemporaneous with our ancestors that were, at the time, evolving into Homo erectus. The fossils in South Africa tend to be very rugged, with heavy faces and huge molars. These aren't like that, and suggest that they're related to East African fossils that many have put in the taxon Homo habilis," Hunt said. "The intriguing thing is that they still have traits found in the more rugged species, Au. africanus, that is found half a million to a million (or more) years earlier. This suggests that just like humans all over the world have evolved but retained their regional characteristics, we had regional characteristics of Homo habilis at 2 million years ago. The teeth are distinctly smaller than Au. africanus, yet the face looks like a delicate version of Au. africanus."


Contact: Steve Chaplin
Indiana University

Related biology news :

1. DNA sequencing unlocks relationships among flowering plants
2. UCR researcher identifies mechanism malaria parasite uses to spread among red blood cells
3. Crucial differences found among Latino populations facing heart disease risks
4. Canopy giants and miniature fungi among 250 new species discovered in Kews 250th anniversary year
5. Among apes, teeth are made for the toughest times
6. Acculturation affects smoking cessation success among Latinos
7. Researchers establish common seasonal pattern among bacterial communities in Arctic rivers
8. Carvedilol shown to have unique characteristics among beta blockers
9. Malnutrition among older adults in rural Bangladesh challenges the Millennium Development Goals
10. NOAA report finds flower garden banks sanctuary reefs among healthiest in Gulf
11. Hypertension among lower-status employees lingers well into retirement
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/26/2015)... 26, 2015 Research and Markets ( ... Fingerprint Sensors - Technology and Patent Infringement Risk Analysis" ... --> --> Fingerprint sensors using capacitive ... The fingerprint sensor vendor Idex forecasts an increase of ... mobile devices and of the fingerprint sensor market between ...
(Date:11/20/2015)... November 20, 2015 NXTD ) ... on the growing mobile commerce market and creator of ... Pereira , was recently interviewed on The RedChip ... on this weekend on Bloomberg Europe , Bloomberg ... --> NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" or the "Company"), ...
(Date:11/19/2015)...  Based on its in-depth analysis of the biometric ... the 2015 Global Frost & Sullivan Award for Product ... this award to the company that has developed the ... the market it serves. The award recognizes the extent ... customer base demands, the overall impact it has in ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/27/2015)... 2015 /PRNewswire/--  Mallinckrodt plc (NYSE: MNK ), ... has closed the sale of its global contrast media ... Euronext) in a transaction valued at approximately $270 million. ... a total of approximately 1,000 employees spread across the ... Louis area. This entire workforce and the ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... PUNE, India , November 27, 2015 ... --> Growing popularity of companion ... emerging in cancer biomarkers market with pharmaceutical ... develop in-demand companion diagnostic tests. ... --> Complete report on global ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... November 26, 2015 --> ... specializing in imaging technologies, announced today that it has received ... of the Horizon 2020 European Union Framework Programme for Research ... clinical trial in breast cancer. , --> ... --> --> The study aims ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015  PharmAthene, Inc. (NYSE MKT: PIP) announced ... stockholder rights plan (Rights Plan) in an effort to ... (NOLs) under Section 382 of the Internal Revenue Code ... PharmAthene,s use of its NOLs could be substantially limited ... in Section 382 of the Code. In general, an ...
Breaking Biology Technology: