Apeman Fossil Could Be Missing Link

Swinging between species
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2011 2:00 AM CDT
Updated Sep 9, 2011 4:54 AM CDT
Apeman Fossil May Be Missing Link
Prof. Lee R. Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa holds the cranium of Australopithecus sediba, what could be the missing link between apes and man.   (AP Photo/Courtesy of Lee Berger and the University of Witwatersrand)

(Newser) – Have scientists finally found the "missing link" connecting human-like apes to the first human? A South African researcher is convinced he may have tracked down the creature after an exhaustive examination of the partial skeletons of a young female adult and a male child of a hominin that lived some 2 million years ago, reports the Independent. The extinct Australopithecus sediba—identified for the first time less than two years ago—exhibits certain features unique to humans, but is still an ape. 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," said Professor Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersand in Johannesburg, who discovered the fossils in a South African cave.

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"The fossils demonstrate a surprisingly advanced but small brain, a very evolved hand with a long thumb like a human, 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," he added. The hand of the creature, in particular, shows the early beginnings of human-like features still capable of climbing, but also capable of a human-like precision grip with the potential to craft tools, noted another researcher who has examined the fossils. (Read more early humans stories.)

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