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 i
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