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.


Malcolm Ritter can be followed at




I have to wonder, if, sometimes these "discoveries" are genuine or are they manufactured?

This "artifact" looks fake.

The Bizness

The white parts you see are reconstructed. If it is fake then it will be discovered during peer review.


I don't mean just the white parts, Obviously, I knew that was what... resin? Plaster? The whole thing just looks fake...

They always claimed the Shroud of Turin was real , too... I don't believe it.


yeah, but it does look amazingly like one of my neighbors.


I love when the religious nuts ask for the "missing link". There are many "missing links" that have been discovered. In the Homo and Australopithecus branches

The Bizness


They don't understand how evolution works...well wait they don't think that evolution is even real.


WiseManOnceSaid + The Bizness = 0


Oh, gee.............someone dug up another "2 million year old" skull that looks amazingly like an ape! LOL Are you people serious?

Evolution? Takes more faith to believe in that ridiculous nonsense than any religion you can name. There's a sucker born every minute!

The Bizness



Poor Observer... As they say, "Ignorance is Bliss".


you must be in ecstasy, WiseManOnceSaid


And we all know that we're just an alien experiment anyway and not descended from anything. Right?


Albert Einstein said..."The probability of life originating from accident is comparable to the probability of the Unabridged Dictionary resulting from an explosion in a print shop."

Licorice Schtick

Eistein the creationist? What a cute idea.

Actually, it's a misattribution. He never said that.

There are books full of every sort of lie - misattributions, misquotes, out-of-context quotes, and pretzel logic - used by the weak-of-faith to shore up their wobbly beliefs by attempting to refute sound science.


There can be God and evolution. If the big bang is when time started, what caused the big bang? If all that there is came from nothing something had to create it. Science and faith can coexist.


I agree with you; science and faith can coexist.

The Bizness



They could coexist. But they don't. Because one is absolutely not true...


Technically the jury is still out on this subject , since we don't have all the answers . When the scientific laws as we now understand them break down on the subatomic levels , God may truly be in the details . I personally don't believe in any magical entity in a classical sense , but have not completely ruled out some purposeful efforts that may guide life , be it natural or by design . Hell , if the multi-verse theory turns out to be correct then a God-like being may really be possible .


I agree Bluto, since neither can be proven with absolute certainty, both can be true, one can be true or neither can be true. To say one is true with absolute certainty with out presenting the facts (which is impossible at this time) who knows?


One fact is that you can't make something out of nothing.
Do you need proof?


That's not true. In quantum mechanics a particle can pop into existence having came from nothing. Mathematically speaking, the entire universe could have popped into existence from nothing. Whether multiverse or Membrane theory is true, there is no chance that the :god: the good book speaks of exists in any way, shape, or form proposed




I think it's just an x-ray of Rush Limbag's head.


LOL , Meowmix , Please don't insult the Australopithecus sediba . ; ))))

Pterocarya frax...



Or Michael Moore's, depends on what side of the fence you are on.


Yes , there is always the other side of the coin isn't there , but we have to pick which side best fits our own comfort zones . Although in Moore's defense he did stick his neck out to the point of death threats , and in my opinion , unless someone wants to kill you , you aren't rocking the boat . ; )))))


+1 Although we don't always agree, you push the debate further where we can further elaborate out varied points of view and in the end we might find consensus or at least understand where each of us is coming from.


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