22 January 2019

South Africa: Reading of Sediba's Bones Complicates the Evolutionary Picture Without Challenging It

Photo: Brett Eloff
The cranium of Malapa hominid 1 (MH1) from South Africa, named "Karabo". The combined fossil remains of this juvenile male are designated as the holotype for Australopithecus sediba (file photo).

A hi-tech study of one of man's distant relatives has further muddied our understanding of human evolution.

A detailed analysis of two ancient Australopithecus sediba skeletons has finally ended the debate that the pair represented two different species of hominin, but in fact shows that human evolution was far more complex than previously thought.

The two skeletons were thought, by some, to be too anatomically different to represent the same species.

Critics had questioned the different sizes and shape of the vertebra.

Now detailed surface scans and examination of 135 bone specimens have shown that the pair were, in fact, a juvenile male and adult female sediba.

"The differences in these vertebrae can simply be attributed to their developmental age differences: the juvenile individual's vertebrae have not yet completed growth, whereas the adult's vertebra growth is complete," explained Professor Scott A. Williams, of the Centre of the Study of Human Origins at the New York University, in a statement.

The release of the study comes on the 10-year anniversary of the discovery of sediba at Malapa, in the Cradle of Humankind. The battery of scans provides a detailed analysis of the skull, vertebral column and thorax, pelvis, limbs...

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