PORTLAND, Ore. — The simple act of walking continues to take strange detours among ancient human ancestors.
To wit, 1.5 million-year-old footprints excavated in Africa, initially thought to reflect a thoroughly modern walking style, were instead made by individuals that walked differently than people today do, researchers reported April 13 at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. And findings presented April 12 at the meeting revealed the surprisingly apelike qualities of foot fossils from a 2 million-year-old species that some researchers regard as the root of the Homo genus.
These reports come on the heels of evidence that a previously unknown member of the human evolutionary family 3.4 million years ago possessed a gorillalike grasping big toe and an ungainly stride (SN Online: 3/28/12). Read more.
ScienceDaily (Sep. 8, 2011) — Skeletal remains found in a South African cave may yield new clues to human development and answer key questions of the evolution of the human lineage, according to a series of papers released in the journal Science co-written by a Texas A&M University anthropology professor.
Researcher Darryl de Ruiter is part of an international team that examined the discovery in a cave about 30 miles northwest of Johannesburg and originally found in 2008. This same team named the new species, Australopithecus sediba, in April 2010. The team, composed of members from U.S., African, European and Australian universities, found multiple individuals of Australopithecus sediba that show both human-like and ape-like characteristics intermediate between Australopithecus and present-day humans.
“The key message is that these remains appear to be a transitional form of Australopithecus, intermediate between earlier australopiths and later Homo, the genus to which present-day humans belong,” de Ruiter explains. Read more.
MINNEAPOLIS — Fossils described last year as representatives of an ancient species critical to human evolution have reentered the scientific spotlight and set off a new round of debate over the finds’ true identity.
Researchers described analyses of new and previously recovered remains of a South African species called Australopithecus sediba on April 16 at a meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. Evidence is accumulating, they reported, that 2-million-year-old A. sediba formed an evolutionary connection between relatively apelike members of Australopithecus and the Homo genus, which includes living people.
It’s now clear that A. sediba shares more skeletal features with early Homo specimens than any other known Australopithecus species does, said Darryl de Ruiter of Texas A&M University in College Station. “We think A. sediba is a possible candidate ancestor for the genus Homo.” Read more.