News Focus

Skeletons Present an Exquisite Paleo-Puzzle

Science  08 Sep 2011:

DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6048.1370

Abstract

Starting on page 1402 of this week’s issue of Science, researchers present two remarkably complete and well-preserved partial skeletons of a 2-million-year-old species called Australopithecus sediba discovered 3 years ago in Malapa Cave in South Africa. The creature’s mix of primitive and modern traits has prompted its discoverer to propose it as one of the last of the australopithecines—and perhaps even a member of the long-sought mystery species that gave rise to our genus, Homo, in Africa. Few other researchers are convinced that Au. sediba was a direct ancestor of humans—but most don’t rule out that possibility. All agree that Au. sediba is a major find and an important relative because of its timing and completeness: These hominins lived just after a significant gap in the fossil record 3 million to 2 million years ago.