The Cradle of Humankind

The most complete investigation of the anatomy of what may be the immediate ancestor of the human lineage is now shedding light on secrets about how it might have behaved, researchers say. For instance, the human ancestors may have moved in an entirely new way, with a somewhat pigeon-toed gait with a twisty trunk, the researchers added. The first specimens of the extinct species Australopithecus sediba were accidentally discovered by the 9-year-old son of a scientist in 2008, in an area in South Africa named the Cradle of Humankind, one of the richest fossil sites in Africa. Australopithecus means "southern ape," while sediba means "fountain" in Sotho, one of the 11 official languages of South Africa, due to how scientists hint the human lineage might spring from this species. Au. sediba lived nearly 2 million years ago, about the time when scientists think the human lineage Homo originated. It possessed a bizarre jumble of human and more apelike traits, perhaps revealing this might be the species from which humans' branch of the family tree originated. "These skeletons are just interesting, wonderful blends of characteristics," said researcher Steven Churchill, an evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University.


The findings, detailed in six papers in the April 12 issue of the journal Science, firm up the idea that Au. sediba was one of humanity's closest ancestors.

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