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SCIENTISTS have unveiled evidence that two species of early cavemen lived and died near their places of birth while most females of the same species settled down after coming from afar.

The study, published in Nature, offers an unprecedented glimpse into the social fabric of australopithecines, an extinct line related to humans that dwelt in southern Africa some two million years ago.

It also challenges the axiomatic idea that our distant forebears began to walk on two legs rather than four in order to cover great distances in search of food or shelter.

If males limited their wanderings to hunt-and-gather forays, then the shift to walking upright might have been driven by other needs, the findings suggest.

Up to now, very little was known of the lifestyle and kinship patterns of our two-legged ancestors.

"Disembodied skulls and teeth are notoriously poor communicators," quipped Matt Sponheimer, an anthropology professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a co-author of the study. Read more.

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