Ancient creature mixed human, apelike traits

Discovery baffles scientists.
Associated Press
Apr 12, 2013

Scientists have gained new insights into an extinct South African creature with an intriguing mix of human and apelike traits, and apparently an unusual way of walking. But they still haven't pinned down where it fits on our evolutionary family tree.

It will take more fossil discoveries to sort that out.

The human branch of the evolutionary tree, called Homo, is thought to have arisen from a group of ancient species called australopithecines. The newly studied species is a member of this group, and so its similarities to humans are enticing for tackling the riddle of how Homo appeared.

It's called Australopithecus sediba (aw-STRAL-oh-PITH-uh-kus se-DEE-bah), which means "southern ape, wellspring." It lived some 2 million years ago, and it both climbed in trees and walked upright. Its remains were discovered in 2008 when the 9-year-old son of a paleoanthropologist accidently came across a bone in South Africa.

A 2011 analysis of some of A. sediba's bones showed a combination of human and more apelike traits, like a snapshot of evolution in action. That theme continues in six papers published online Thursday by the journal Science, which complete the initial examination of two partial skeletons and an isolated shinbone.

Jeremy DeSilva of Boston University, lead author of one of the papers, said the fossils reveal an unexpected "mosaic of anatomies."

"I didn't think you could have this combination, that hand with that pelvis with that foot... And yet, there it is," he said.

DeSilva said he has no idea how A. sediba is related to humans, noting that the different traits argue for different conclusions.

Among the new analyses, the ribs show the creature's upper trunk resembled an ape's, while the lower part looked more like a human's. Arm bones other than the hand and wrist look primitive, reflecting climbing ability, while earlier analysis of the hand had shown mixed traits.

The teeth also show a mix of human and primitive features, and provide new evidence that A. sediba is closely related to early humans, said Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg of Ohio State University, a co-author of a dental analysis. It and an older South African species, A. africanus, appear more closely related to early humans than other australopithecines like the famous "Lucy" are, she said.

But she said the analysis can't determine which of the two species is the closer relative, nor whether A. sediba is a direct ancestor of humans.

Another study found a mix of human and apelike traits in leg bones, and concluded that A. sediba walked like no other known animal.

Its heel was narrow like an ape's, which would seem to prevent walking upright, but the more humanlike knee, pelvis and hip show A. sediba did just that, DeSilva said.

When people walk, they strike the ground with the heel first. But that would be disastrous from A. sediba's narrow heel bone, so instead the creature struck the ground first with the outside of the foot, DeSilva and co-authors propose. The foot would react by rolling inward, which is called pronation. In people, chronic pronation can cause pain in the foot, knees, hip and back, said DeSilva, who tried out the ancient creature's gait.

"I've been walking around campus this way, and it hurts," he said.

But the bones of A. sediba show features that evidently prevented those pain problems, he said. The creature apparently adopted this gait as a kind of compromise for a body that had to climb trees proficiently as well as walk upright, he said.

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Malcolm Ritter can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/malcolmri...

 

Comments

4shizzle

I see that you filled in the comment space censored by the moderators.

Bluto

So , you are saying you don't believe we are made of cells ? What is it then , snakes , snails , and puppy dog tails ? All living things live , die and what remains contributes to sustaining other living things . That is fact . What happens to our consciousness after we die is speculation . Maybe God does exist maybe it doesn't . That's all I'm saying . Perhaps science may actually prove that someday . Besides what good has religion brought to the world ? Centuries of war , hate , and discrimination towards each other . What is good that ?

4shizzle

What a mess. Why don't you ask one question?

Bluto

Sorry , I didn't mean to tax your brain . Guess four is too many for you to process all at once . ; )))))

4shizzle

By the way , what does this ; ))))) mean?

Bluto

Life is in all plants and animals , down to the smallest cells , but it is the search for truth and understanding that gives OUR lives purpose .

4shizzle

Sounds wise but it's not.

Bluto

If you hate science so much why don't you reject all it's trappings ?

4shizzle

Where'd you get that conclusion?

Bluto

So , you just like to argue , I guess .

4shizzle

You don't? Ha!

Bluto

Please , don't tell me you're one of those people who goes to church every Sunday and thinks that makes all their sins go away.

4shizzle

You don't know much about science or God.

Bluto

I can tell you're a person of high intelligence , especially after reading your masterful debate with bobshmway . Like two peas in a pod . You funny .

4shizzle

It was fun.
Flattery will get you nowhere.

4shizzle

By the way , what does this ; ))))) mean?

TuffNutts2011

Sweet Brown died??

The Big Dog's back

Try watching Ancient Aliens, you might learn something.

thinkagain

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).

The Big Dog's back

You're right. What was I thinking. If it doesn't come from Fox news or rush it can't be true.

Fromthe419

4shizzle, I posted on the gas price increase and our earlier converstion made me think. I stated earlier that God and Science can coexist since before the Big Bang there was nothing and everything came from it and something had to create the Big Bang. For centuries alchemists tried to make gold from lesser elements and now we have the Fed that creates currency from thin air that has value like gold. The article was talking about how much gas was 10 years ago versus today. With central banks printing money out of thin air and infusing it into the economy we all see our purchasing power decrease, but I digress. Sixty years ago we had God in our schools (1950's) and our Nation prospered, then the sixties happened and we turned our backs on God and drugs, hippies, unfunded wars, etc came to the forefront and our nation has declined since. If our Nation is ever to recover we need to look to principles of the Bible and stop our worship of the new God the Almighty dollar and it's debt based creation.

4shizzle

ok.

WiseManOnceSaid

More wars and death were in the name of your god or someone else's god. It's all silly stories. What seperates Christian mythology from Greek mythology?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o...

4shizzle

Christianity has archaeological evidence.
For example: Christianity came out of the Jewish religion.
Are the Jews a myth? Is Jerusalem a real place?

http://www.gotquestions.org/Bibl...

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