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New research reveals how human ancestor walked, chewed, and moved
Date:4/11/2013

ly relied on climbing trees," Williams explained.

He noted that "the adult female is the first early hominin skeleton that preserves an intact terminal thoracic region and this provides critical information on the transition in inter-vertebral joints, and, by inference, mobility of the lower back."

"The bony spine of Au. sediba likely had the same number of vertebrae as that of modern humans," Williams added. "However, it differed in one primary aspect of its configurationthe transition in inter-vertebral articular facets occurred at a higher level of the spine that than normally occurs in modern humans. In combination with other features, a functionally longer lower back would have allowed for a more flexible spine in Au. sediba relative to that of modern humans."

In addition, morphological indicators of strong lumbar curvature suggest that Au. sediba evolved in this regard relative to Au. africanus, which lived between 3.03 and 2.04 million years ago, and closer to the more recent Nariokotome Homo erectus skeletonto date, the most complete early human skeleton discovered.

The research was conducted at the Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in South Africa, where Au. sebida's remains were discovered in 2008.

Overall, the fossils provide an "unprecedented insight into the anatomy and phylogenetic position of an early human ancestor," observed Professor Lee Berger, the project leader from the Wits Evolutionary Studies Institute. "This examination of a large number of associated, often complete and undistorted elements, gives us a glimpse of a hominin species that appears to be mosaic in its anatomy and that presents a suite of functional complexes that are both different from that predicted for other australopiths, as well as that for early Homo.

"Such clear insight into the anatomy of an early hominin species wil
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Contact: James Devitt
james.devitt@nyu.edu
212-998-6808
New York University
Source:Eurekalert

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