Fossils Reveal a New Human Ancestor

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BY YUTAKA HAYASHI You're watching multisource science video news analysis from Newsy. Researchers clai...
BY YUTAKA HAYASHI You're watching multisource science video news analysis from Newsy. Researchers claim to have found a direct ancestor of modern humans in a cave in South Africa. The fossils of this species -- called Australopithecus sediba displays the traits of both humans and apes, according to the International Business Times: “The skeletons show an extraordinary mix of primitive, ape-like features like big body, long arms and tree-climbing skills, while also possessing traits of modern humans in the pelvis, hands, ankles and brain.” So, what does that mean? What really makes this hominid so important? The BBC reports the apes are the most human-like of their time. Professor Lee Berger, who led the research project and discovered the fossils explains more: “What we are looking at is the point of transition, where we move from relatively primitive creatures to something that is potentially stone-tool-using, there’s the potential origins of language, the way we think -- something that’s looking like us.” Wall Street Journal Senior Science Editor Robert Lee Hotz says the openness of the anthropologists involved in discovering these fossils (what does this mean?), and the sheer number of fossils will probably fuel further developments: “ sheds a lot of light into - first time - into a really crucial period in our development which we know almost nothing about. I mean, prior to this the number of fossils from this time period, 2 mil years ago, you could fit into a shoe box. Secondly, it’s the number of fossils: you know you could build an entire PhD thesis, and an museum exhibit out of one tooth, right, in this kind of stuff. They have skulls, they have hands, legs, feet, a whole group, and they may have more they haven’t told us about yet.” Although paleontologists agree this is a valuable finding -- not everyone thinks the new species is directly related to humans. A paleoanthropologist at George Washington University, Dr. Bernard Wood, tells the New York Times: “....there was too little time for the small-brained, tree-climbing ape to evolve into the large-brained Homo erectus. More interesting, in his view, are the strange combinations of apelike and humanlike features that Dr. Berger’s team has described. The new fossils display the modular way in which evolution operates: they have mostly known features but in novel combinations that have never been seen before.” Scientists continue to research the discovery to see if this is a whole new branch -- of the human family tree. Transcript by Newsy.