A team of scientists has pieced together how the hominid Australopithecus sediba (Au. sediba) walked, chewed, and moved nearly two million years ago. Their research, which appears in six papers in the latest issue of the journal Science, also shows that Au. sediba had a notable feature that differed from that of modern humansa functionally longer and more flexible lower back.
Together, the studies offer a comprehensive depiction of some of the most complete early human ancestral remains ever discovered.
Since its discovery in August 2008, the site of Malapalocated about 30 miles northwest of Johannesburghas yielded more than 220 bones of early hominins representing more than five individuals, including the remains of babies, juveniles, and adults. The evidence published in Science is based on two individuals from the site. The fossils from the site date to 1.977 to 1.98 million years in age.
"The abundance and remarkable preservation of fossils from Malapa provide unique insights into the way this fascinating extinct species interacted with and moved around in its environment," said New York University anthropologist Scott Williams, the lead author of one of the six papers appearing in Science.
Williams, part of NYU's Center for the Study of Human Origins, and his colleagues authored a paper describing Au. sediba's vertebral column. The work is the first to analyze elements of the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral regions of the vertebral column in Au. sediba. Their analysis was based on partially complete spines of the two Au. sediba skeletons.
Their study reveals that Au. sediba had a human-like curvature of the lower back, but it was functionally longer and more flexible than that of modern humans.
"They probably walked in a way that we might find strangea 'compromise' form of bipedalism indicative of a hominin that still partial
|Contact: James Devitt|
New York University