Karabo the researchers have called the twelve-year-old boy of the species Australopithecus sediba, whose skulls they were X-rayed. In a South African language that means "answer". (c) Lee Berger and the University of Witwatersrand
Reading aloud Nearly two million years ago, hominids living in present-day South Africa, who had a brain the size of a chimpanzee, had short legs, long arms, protruding mouths and a lot of climbing in the trees. But at the same time, these early Australopithecus sediba ancestors had skilful hands to manipulate and precisely access tools. The shape of her brain, her hips and parts of her foot resembled those of modern man. An international research team around Lee Berger reports in the current issue of the journal Science. The researchers consider the unique hybrid creature to be a possible ancestor of man. "Australopithecus sediba is probably the best candidate as an ancestor of the genus Homo, rather than earlier finds like the Homo habilis, " says team leader Lee Berger. In 2008, the team discovered several almost complete skeletons of the hitherto unknown ancestor species in a cave near Johannesburg. In 2010, they described two of the fossils: the skeleton of a 12-year-old boy and that of a 30-year-old woman, in the science journal Science. Due to the typical physique they assigned the new species of the genus Australopithecus. But even then they discovered great similarities to the human line.

Now they examined the hand, foot, brain and hip of the South African pre-man with the most modern methods. "We focused on these four key regions of anatomy because they play a crucial role in human evolution, " Berger said Wednesday at a press conference. In all these parts of the body they discovered the strange mixture of old and new features. Even though the brain is rather small even for Australopithecus, it already shows an organization typical for humans in the forehead area. The hand can grip precisely with two fingers, but at the same time it is strong and well suited for climbing in the trees. The hip already has a typically human shape, although Australopithecus women gave birth to babies with a small head.

The strangest thing, though, are the feet. If the researchers had not found the bones together, they would have thought they belonged to two different species. "This creature was undoubtedly upright, " said Bernhard Zipfel of the University of Witwatersrand. "At the same time the ankle was very mobile, almost like chimpanzees. This type of ankle is needed to climb trees. As the course of the Vormenschen looked, the researchers can therefore hard to imagine.

How Australopithecus sediba fits exactly into the human pedigree remains unclear. However, he lived exactly at the time when the transition from pre-man to man took place. A new, accurate dating of the fossiliferous limestone layers revealed that the Australopithecus group is about 200, 000 years older than previously thought. It plummeted into the cave between 1.997 and 1.98 million years ago, and thus qualifies as the ancestor of Homo erectus, the first undisputed member of the human genus. The oldest Homo erectus fossils are 1.9 million years old - 80, 000 years younger than the first from South Africa. display

Lee Berger (University of Witwatersrand, South Africa), Robyn Pickering (University of Melbourne, Australia), Kristian Carlson (University of Witwatersdand), Job Kibii (University of Witwatersrand), Tracy Kivell (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig), Bernhard Zipfel (University of Witwatersrand) et al .: Science Vol. 333, p. 1402, 1407, 1411, 1417, 1421 doi: 10.1126 / science.1202703, 10.1126 / science.1202625, 10.1126 / science.1202521, 10.1126 / science.1203922, 10.1126 / science.1203697 science.de - Ute Kehse

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