Kate Wong in Scientic American, April 24, 2013, indicated that three years ago researchers added a new branch to the human family tree – Australopithecus sediba, a nearly two-million-year-old relative from South Africa. She then discussed discoveries ranging from the 1856 discovery of Neanderthal fossils in western Germany to the recent 18,000 year old Flores hobbit (Homo floresiensis).
The writer of this article excitedly wrote that she thought the recent discoveries of Australopithecus sediba ” in Malapa just outside of Johannesburg, South Africa, were the most important human ancestor discovery ever’ !
” …. the April 12, 2013 Science revealed a creature that excelled at climbing trees and also walked upright on the ground with its shoulders shrugged and its arms unswinging, rolling its feet inward with each step – a previously unknown form of bipedalism.”
Papers have been written detailing what A. sediba looked like, when it lived, what it ate and how it is related to us, among other insights. Kate Wong indicated that whether it is found to be the ancestor of Hoo or a dead-end branch of humanity, that the Malapa homins are now the ones to beat. In addition to two skeletons, the site has yielded more fragmentary remains of another 4 individuals, including an infant,. Ro=achelle Keeling of the University of the Witwatersrand reported that molecular imaging of what appears to be skin preserved on some of the bones supports the interpretation that the teeth of the young male with tartar that enabled the research team to analyze for clues to what he ate in his final days. If verified this would be the first evidence of fossil hominin soft tissue, and could conceivably provide insights into A. sediba’s skin color and hair color, and the distribution of hair and sweat glands.
She concludes: “Think another hominin discovery is more important than this one? I’d love to hear which one and why in the comments. Maybe you’ll change my mind.”