Au. sediba demonstrates unique combination of features, never before seen in early human ancestors

A series of five papers based on new evidence pertaining to various aspects of the anatomy of the species Australopithecus sediba (announced in April 2010 by Berger et al), will appear in the prestigious journal Science on Friday, 9 September 2011.

The papers will reveal new, important elements attributed to the two type skeletons, which will include an analysis of the most complete hand ever described in an early hominin, the most complete undistorted pelvis (hip bone) ever discovered, the highest resolution and most accurate scan of an early human ancestors brain ever made, new pieces of the foot and ankle skeleton, and one of the most accurate, if not the most accurate dates ever achieved for an early hominin site in Africa.

According to Prof. Lee Berger, a Reader in Evolution at the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, Au. sediba demonstrates a surprisingly unique combination of features, never before seen in an early human ancestor.

"The fossils demonstrate a surprisingly advanced but small brain, a very evolved hand with a long thumb like a humans, 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."

Since its discovery in August 2008, the site of Malapa has yielded well over 220 bones of early hominins representing more than five individuals, including the remains of babies, juveniles and adults.

Given the open access policy of the team, sediba is already one of the best studied hominin species yet discovered.

The team studying these fossils is one of the largest ever assembled in the history of archaeology or palaeontology. With more than 80 scientists, students and technicians from across the globe involved in the study, the teams expertise range from geologists, computer specialists, functional morphologists and anatomists, to physicists.

This is one of the largest collection of scientific papers ever produced by an African based team or University, on a single subject to be published in a journal of this impact level.

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