A paleoanthropologist, his 9-year-old son, and his dog have uncovered a fossil that's generating a lot of "missing link" headlines. (Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post explains why those headlines are wrong here.) The boy was playing on a hill in South Africa, near where his father was searching for hominid bones, when he stumbled on the fossilized skeleton of a 4-foot-2-inch boy of a heretofore unknown species. Researchers scoured the area and found three more skeletons.
The remains, believed to be about 2 million years old, reveal a creature that strode upright on long legs and had several human-like features, including its hips, pelvis, and face, but still swung through trees on ape-like arms, the New York Times reports. The creature, officially known as Australopithecus Sediba, could be an ancestor of Homo erectus, and hence humans. But it could also simply be a close side-branch, an alternate evolutionary path.