Australopithecus sediba: Scientist Find 2-Million-Year-Old Human, Ape Missing Link [PHOTOS] [VIDEO]
A 2 million-year-old creature was discovered in a cave near Johannesburg in 2008. A mysterious fossil standing 1.3 meters, or four feet tall, scientists began to examine the bone structure to understand the specimen.
Now, a research published on Friday determined that the fossil possessed a combination of ape-like and human-like features that allowed the creature to once hike vast distances in an erect, two-legged posture and to also climb trees with ease.
The efficient creature belongs to a species called "Australopithecus sediba" (A. sediba). The A. sediba is similar to the chimpanzee in size. It also possesses a narrow rib cage that is similar to apes but also a more flexible spine that is more related to humans. Long, powerful arms and torso also allowed the 2 million-year-old creature to become a fast climber.
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Other human traits include the A. sediba's leg mechanics. The 2 million-year-old creature features an inward rotation of the knee and hip with a flat-footed gait, allowing the sediba to cover ground as well.
"The whole foot itself looks to be twisted inwards," explained anthropologist Jeremy DeSilva of Boston University. "By landing on the outside of this twisted-in foot, the ground is going to push back with considerable force and roll that foot to the inside."
Also, the A. sediba has smaller teeth and chewing muscles. Finally, the A. sediba's hands were adapted for tool use.
Intellectually, the A. sediba only possesses a brain about the size of an ape. Merely 200,000 years older than a Homo erectus, scientists believe the brain must have expanded rapidly in evolution in a relatively short period of time.
"It is the perfect compromise of something that has the need to walk on the ground efficiently for long distances. At the same time, it is a very capable climber," said Lee Berger, project leader at the Wits Evolutionary Studies Institute in South Africa.
"We have more complete specimens of fossils than for any other early hominin species that has ever been discovered. What this means is that we can make assessments of the anatomy and behavior of this species with a great deal of confidence," Berger told Reuters.
The unique A. sediba provides very special insight regarding the evolution of the modern man. In fact, scientists are learning what sort of traits found in our ancestors are now lost in human beings.
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