Ancient skeletons in SA
London: In what could rewrite the story
of human origins, paleontologists have discovered two ancient
skeletons in South Africa, which they claim suggest that true
humans may have emerged later than previously believed.
An international team, led by Lee Berger of University
of Witwatersrand, has spotted the 1.9 million-year-old fossils
of the two skeletons -- possibly from a mother and son, having
human and ape-like traits -- in a South African cave.
According to the paleontologists, the species, named
Australopithecus sediba, had long straight legs and protruding
noses as well as gangly forearms and grasping feet.
"We feel Australopithecus sediba might be a Rosetta
Stone for defining what the genus Homo is. The fossils appear
to present a mosaic of features showing an animal comfortable
in both worlds," `The Times` quoted Berger as saying.
According to them, the female would probably have
been in her late 20s or early 30s, and the boy about 8 or 9,
probably indicating that there was a "transition" during which
human`s ancestors divided their time between swinging in trees
and walking upright.
The female and boy would have been about 4ft 2in tall
and on land would have had a human-like gait and probably have
been able to run, according to the findings published in the
latest edition of the `Science` journal.
While A. sediba had a small brain, its shape appears
to be more advanced than Australopithecines found previously,
say the team members, adding the species could be a direct
ancestor to Homo erectus, the predecessor of modern humans.
The classification is causing fierce disagreement
among paleontologists, however.
"To claim that these new fossils represent an
ancestor of living humans is misleading and founded in error
The species was too primitive to be an ancestor of Homo," said
Darren Curnoe of University of New South Wales.
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