News BBC: http://bit.ly/cCYGpC
Two skeletons nearly 2 million years old and unearthed in South Africa are part of a previously unknown species that scientists say fits the transition from ancient apes to modern humans. However, the term “missing link” has been discredited by scientists who say that the term was coined when it was believed that a steady transition could be witnessed in Hominid evolution. It has since become clear that the tree has many more branches, making the term redundant.
Discovered by the nine-year old son of a WITS University professor in the cradle of humanity, South Africa, these two skeletons have caused quite a stir in scientific communities around the world. The (presumably) mother and son pair appear to have fallen down into a hole and died. This hole was later flooded, preserving their bones in sediment until they were discovered a few years ago. Two more skeletal remains have since been found.
“These fossils give us an extraordinarily detailed look into a new chapter of human evolution and provide a window into a critical periodwhen hominids made the committed change from dependency on life in the trees to life on the ground,” said Lee R. Berger of South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand. “Australopithecus sediba appears to present a mosaic of features demonstrating an animal comfortable in both worlds.”
Modern humans, known as Homo sapiens, descended over millions of years from earlier groups, such as Australopithecus, the best-known example of which may be the fossil Lucy, who lived about a million years before the newly discovered A. sediba.
Berger said the newly described fossils date between 1.95 million and 1.78 million years ago.
It can apparently be concluded that this new species shares more derived features with early Homo than any other known australopith species, and thus represents a candidate ancestor for the genus, or a sister group to a close ancestor that persisted for some time after the first appearance of Homo. However, it isn’t really Homo yet because it “doesn’t have the whole package.”
Human evolution has always been a hotly debated topic with regards to the various branches, cousins of modern Homo sapiens, classifications, and fragmentary discoveries. However, the scientific community has managed to identify and construct a notable path from S. tchadensis, to A. ramidus, all the way to Homo sapiens.
Ardi Timeline: http://bit.ly/ceq0HD
Chart of Human Evolution: http://bit.ly/a3KxoX
Human Evolution: http://bit.ly/90mWrj