LIVERMORE, Calif., April 8 (UPI) — Scientists say they have discovered fossils of an extinct species of hominid that lived about 2.3 million years ago in Africa.
The newly found species, named Australopithecus sediba, lived in an area of South Africa known as the Cradle of Humankind, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California said in a release. The species may replace other candidates, such as Homo habilis, as distant ancestors of humans, the researchers say.
Dan Farber, a scientist at the Livermore laboratory, said the fossils of an adult and a juvenile were found at the Malapa site. The international team’s findings are published in the April 9 issue of the journal Science.
The scientists say the exceptionally well-preserved remains indicate Sediba appears to have been a transitional form between early australopithecines and early members of the genus homo.
Measurements made by Farber and other members of the team, including former laboratory post-doctoral candidate Anne-Sophie Meriaux of the University of Newcastle and Geoff King of the Institut de Physique du Globe, indicate Sediba may be a good candidate for being the transitional species between the southern African ape-man Australopithecus africanus (the Taung Child, Mrs. Ples) and either Homo habilis, or even a direct ancestor of Homo erectus (Turkana boy, java man, Peking man).
The fossils, estimated to be 1.5 million to 2.3 million years old, were encased in sediment deposited in what is now a deeply eroded cave system.
Other collaborators included James Cook University in Australia, University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, Duke University, University of Berne in Switzerland, University of Johannesburg, University of Melbourne, University of California Santa Cruz, Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, University of New South Wales in Australia, University of Liverpool and Laboratoire Tectonique of France.
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