Sometime in 2008 a nine year old boy was walking along the parched land of his native South Africa when he discovered something truly unusual – skeletal remains. Fortunately his father was/is a paleoanthropologist who quickly realized the importance of the find.
Turns out the newly discovered bones were those of Australopithecus sediba which translates to, “southern ape, wellspring”. This creature lived nearly two million years ago, walking upright as well as ascending trees. Could this creature be related to modern man?
Well, in the sense that the Homo Sapiens line traces its origins way, way back to the australopithecines, and this new creature is an australopithecine, you could say it’s related. However, it is still a long way from being a fully functioning human as we know ourselves today. Scientists still aren’t completely sure where it fits in, but they’ll eventually figure it out, and this fossil will fit in somewhere back in the australopithecine era.
Regardless, the find is intriguing. Altogether the scientists found two partial skeletons of this creature, and an additional shin bone. They recently published no less than six papers about this creature, each on a different topic of study. These papers cover their initial findings after a thorough investigation of the remains.
One of the authors, Boston University’s Jeremy DeSilva, said, “The fossils reveal an unexpected “mosaic of anatomies.” I didn’t think you could have this combination, that hand with that pelvis with that foot … and yet, there it is.”
Some other interesting anatomical differences have already been revealed.
Scientists shared these findings:
- A. sediba’s lower body more closely resembled a human skeleton while the upper body looked more like an ape’s.
- The larger arm bones look more like an ape’s, designed for climbing. But the hands and wrists revealed mixed traits between ape and human.
- The teeth showed a mix of human and ape traits, and according to scientist Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg, the traits leaned more towards the human end of the scale.
- Leg bones revealed another mix of human and ape traits, such that the scientists concluded A. sediba walked in a totally unique way. In particular, while the knee, pelvis, and hip were more human like, the heel was extremely narrow which is typical of apes. So they were able to figure that this animal walked by hitting the ground with the outside of its foot and rolling inward. That motion is called pronation and if we humans do it, we get a lot of foot/knee/hip/back pain. But apparently it worked for A. sediba.
Our focus here in CryptoVille is primarily on rare and unusual animals that may still be roaming the earth. But the more we learn about ape evolution, the closer we are to piecing together where Gigantopithecus and his descendants fit into the “family tree”.
I look forward to the day when we’re talking about how Bigfoot fits into the Homo Sapiens line, or perhaps branches off into its own unique category! Plus wouldn’t you love to have seen what this creature looked like in the flesh? Our world is full of such wonderful creatures!
Til the next time!