Ancient skeletons in SA
Last Updated: Sunday, April 11, 2010, 10:09
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.


First Published: Sunday, April 11, 2010, 10:09

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