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Human 'missing link' fossils may be jumble

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Posted (edited)

'

ONE of our closest long-lost relatives may never have existed. The fossils of Australopithecus sediba, which promised to rewrite the story of human evolution, may actually be the remains of two species jumbled together.

The first fossils of A. sediba were foundartx_video.gif at Malapa, South Africa, in 2008. At 2 million years old, they show a mix of features, some similar to the ape-like australopithecines, others more like our genus, Homo. To its discoverers, this hotchpotch means A. sediba was becoming human, and that the Homo genus first evolved in South Africa, not east Africa as is generally thought.

But a new analysis suggests A. sediba didn't exist. "I think there are two different hominin genera represented at Malapa," says Ella Been at Tel Aviv University in Israel. One is an Australopithecus and one an early Homo. We can't yet tell if the australopithecine remains are distinct enough to call them a new species, Been says.

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Edited by questionmark

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At least they're checking.

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Posted (edited)

A. sediba is not a 'missing link' as other, earlier, fossils categorised into the family Homo have been recovered from sites in East Africa. A. sediba was likely an example of the continued evolution of the line of Australopithicines after the divergence of Homo from that lineage. Homo habilis was at least a contemporary of A. sediba, and fossils of H. habilis have been found which predate those assigned to A. sediba. The last common ancestor of both the Homo and Australopithicine lineages is thought to be A. afarensis.

That does not to say that Professor Been is not correct, and what has been identified as A. sediba may be an admixture of separate species, but it does address the misleading byline that A. sediba "promised to rewrite the story of human evolution". That was never the case.

Edited by Leonardo
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I think the phrase "missing link" should be banned in conversations about human evolution. Its so meaningless, and we've come on so far since it was coined.

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