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Australopithecus sediba
Australopithecus sedibaCourtesy Wikimedia Creative Commons
Fossil bones from a creature named Australopithecus sediba show traits of both ape and human features that could shake up the field of human evolution. The fossils were found in South Africa in 2008 and according to lead researcher Lee R. Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, analysis of the bones show it to be the most likely ancestor to modern humans.

The rare, complete fossil hand of A. sediba has a curvature like you’d expect in a tree-dwelling ape-creature but the thumb is long and the fingers slender, more human-like and could allow for possible tool use. The fragmental remains of a heel suggest an arched foot suitable for walking on the ground, and with an attachment for a large Achilles tendon. The pelvis is more bowl-shaped, broad, and human-like than that of the older Australopithecus afarensis known as Lucy.

"This is what evolutionary theory would predict, this mixture of Australopithecene and Homo," said Texas A&M paleoanthropologist Darryl J. DeRuiter. "It's strong confirmation of evolutionary theory."

A. sediba lived two million years ago, and represents a very fine example of a transitional fossil, but its brain is still small and more like that of a chimpanzee, and it’s that fact that may cause scientists to reconsider some of their earlier assumptions about how humans evolved.

The research appears in five separate reports in the current issue of Science.

Star Tribune story
Science journal
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