Friday, April 29, 2011

Sediba and Flores

This week's Science is reporting additional remains of Au. sediba from Lee Berger's team in South Africa. There are four individuals, including an infant. Given the controversy I stirred up this time last year when I published a paper suggesting that Au. sediba should be included in the human holobaramin, I found this little snippet extremely interesting:
The team calls the hominin an australopithecine because it had a small brain and “overall body plan” like that of an australopithecine, team member de Ruiter said in his talk.

But the fossils also show some surprisingly modern traits usually found only in members of our genus, Berger said. The two pelvises, in particular, are capacious and elongated, resembling those of Homo. In his talk, Berger ticked off a list of other modern traits, including smaller teeth, short hands, and an elongated thumb.
Last year, my critics relished pointing out all the characteristics of sediba that were very different from Homo sapiens, and yet there remain many other traits that are surprisingly "modern" (i.e., like us). So I'm eager to see the results of Berger's team's latest research. I just hope we don't have to wait years to see those papers in print.

For any curious readers, I finished my paper responding to my critics, and it's been submitted for publication. I hope that it will be published sometime this summer.

Science is also reporting more wrist bones from Homo floresiensis (the so-called "Hobbit"). There remains a bit of controversy over whether the fossils attributed to floresiensis are really a different species than Homo sapiens or just the remains of a deformed individual. The primary way to resolve that question in favor of the "new species" interpretation is to find additional individuals that closely resemble the first fossils. These new bones add to the evidence that the Hobbit was indeed a different species.

2011. A New Ancestor for Homo? Science 332:534.
Gibbons. 2011. Snapshots From the Meeting. Science 332:535.

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