Scientists uncover ancient human remains
A team of scientists has uncovered the skeletal remains of an unknown species of ancient human, it was revealed today.
The researchers suggest the species - named Australopithecus sediba - could be a direct ancestor to Homo erectus, the predecessor of modern humans.
The two partial articulated skeletons of an adult female and child were found in miners' debris in South Africa in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in 2008 by Professor Lee Berger from South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand.
The fossils were dated as being around 1.95 million years old, placing the species at a transition point in our evolutionary story from small brained bipedal apes to larger brained human ancestors.
Dr Andy Herries, archaeological scientist from the School of Medical Sciences at the University of New South Wales, Australia, was part of the team which dated the remains.
He said the remains might not be the oldest at the site.
"Until recently it was impossible to get precise dates for the South African cave sites, but with the development of new techniques we are beginning to understand the relationships of the various species of early human to each other," he said.
"This is a period of major climatic change and increasing aridity in Africa, when a number of different species of potential early Homo ancestors occur, each adapting to these changes in different ways.
"Sediba appears to have traits of both the earlier species, Australopithecus africanus, and a later species, Homo erectus.
"It is likely that these fossils do not represent the oldest evidence for Au. sediba. Sediments older than two million years occur at the site and only time will tell if they will reveal earlier examples of Australopithecus sediba or other species of human ancestors."
His colleague Professor Paul Dirks, head of the School of Environmental Sciences at James Cook University, Australia, led the team which described the geological setting and age of the remains.
He said paleomagnetic analysis of the debris encasing the fossils had helped define their age.
"These ages coincide with the period in which the species of the genus Australopithecus are gradually being replaced by species of the genus Homo, of which we, Homo sapiens are part," he said.
Dr Robyn Pickering is from the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and was part of the team which aged the fossils.
She said: "It has never been clear where our own genus Homo came from - this new discovery Australopithecus sediba could answer these questions. Knowing how old these early human (hominin) fossils are is critical to our knowledge of where this newly found species fits into our family tree.
"We have been able to date the sediba fossils to between 1.95 and 1.78 million years ago. This is the first time in South Africa, we have been able to achieve such good age control. Now we are able to fill in the gap of what happened two million years ago in the beginnings of our species."
Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'
Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'
Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?
Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent
"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier
Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
- 5 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Isis releases first video showing the stoning of woman accused of committing adultery as her father shouts 'don't call me Dad'
This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
FCKH8: YouTube reinstates provocative anti-sexism video showing young girls swearing
Diwali: What is the festival of lights – and how is it celebrated around the world?
Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
£350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reading are...
competitive benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Outstanding analytic expertise is req...
Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM - A high q...
competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you the king or Queen o...