Thursday, April 8, 2010

Australopithecus sediba

Well, I was wrong. The paper did not appear in Nature; it was published in Science.

Here's the Science Daily take:
New Hominid Shares Traits With Homo Species: Fossil Find Sheds Light on the Transition to Homo Genus from Earlier Hominids

The Science special website (complete with movie of reconstructed skull):

And the papers from Science:

Berger et al. 2010. Australopithecus sediba: A New Species of Homo-Like Australopith from South Africa. Science 328:195-204. [PDF]
Abstract: Despite a rich African Plio-Pleistocene hominin fossil record, the ancestry of Homo and its relation to earlier australopithecines remain unresolved. Here we report on two partial skeletons with an age of 1.95 to 1.78 million years. The fossils were encased in cave deposits at the Malapa site in South Africa. The skeletons were found close together and are directly associated with craniodental remains. Together they represent a new species of Australopithecus that is probably descended from Australopithecus africanus. Combined craniodental and postcranial evidence demonstrates that this new species shares more derived features with early Homo than any other australopith species and thus might help reveal the ancestor of that genus.

Dirks et al. 2010. Geological Setting and Age of Australopithecus sediba from Southern Africa. Science 328:205-208. [PDF]

Now, if you're a creationist who thinks Homo habilis is not human, then this really isn't all that big a deal. On the other hand, if you think that Homo habilis is human, this could be quite a challenge. What do I think? I think it's a beautiful fossil, and there are postcranial elements!!!!

Otherwise, I'm reserving judgment. Sorry.