Scientists attempt to redraw human family tree, again
Recent discovery places a new ancestor in the human evolutionary lineage.
Meet your new grandmother. Or your very, very, very great grandmother at least. According to paleoanthropologists, a new species of pre-human ancestor has been discovered in Africa, and they believe it is a direct ancestor of modern humans. Other scientists disagree, but still say the find is important.
Is this the skull of the grandmother of all humans? Scientists and people debate the claim.
The two sets of fossil bones belong to two creatures, one believed to be between 10 and 13 years old and the other, a female, believed to be around 30.
If the scientific community accepts the claims of paleoanthropologist Lee Berger, from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, the discoverer of the fossils, it may redraw their map of the human evolutionary tree placing this new species in the same evolutionary line as humans. The new creatures are known to science as, Australopithecus sediba, and they lived approximately 1.977 million years ago.
While scientists debate the lineage of the fossils, they seem to agree that they have some unique features. The fossils have a mix of apelike and human features.
Berger said, "The fossils demonstrate a surprisingly advanced but small brain, a very evolved hand with a long thumb like a human's, a very modern pelvis, but a foot and ankle shape never seen in any hominin species that combines features of both apes and humans in one anatomical package. The many very advanced features found in the brain and body and the earlier date make it possibly the best candidate ancestor for our genus, the genus Homo, more so than previous discoveries such as Homo habilis."
In plain English, the fossil may be another "missing link" species that connects humans to pre-human ancestors and both modern and ancient apes.
Scientists and the general public will likely debate where Australopithecus sediba belongs in the human family tree, if at all, for a very long time to come.
The find has been detailed in the September 9 issue of the journal Science.
What do you think? Do you feel Australopithecus sediba belongs in your family tree? Comment below.
© 2011, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Australopithecus sediba, evolution, missing link, homo, hominid, species
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