Scientists Uncover Human-Like Species

Boys find fossilized skeleton in South Africa
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 8, 2010 2:56 PM CDT
Scientists Uncover Human-Like Species
Professor Paul Dirksr, of the University of the Witwatersrand, discusses the nearly 2 million-year-old skeletons unearthed in South Africa, at Maropeng, near Johannesburg, Thursday.   (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

A paleoanthropologist, his 9-year-old son, and his dog have uncovered a fossil that's generating a lot of "missing link" headlines. (Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post explains why those headlines are wrong here.) The boy was playing on a hill in South Africa, near where his father was searching for hominid bones, when he stumbled on the fossilized skeleton of a 4-foot-2-inch boy of a heretofore unknown species. Researchers scoured the area and found three more skeletons.

The remains, believed to be about 2 million years old, reveal a creature that strode upright on long legs and had several human-like features, including its hips, pelvis, and face, but still swung through trees on ape-like arms, the New York Times reports. The creature, officially known as Australopithecus Sediba, could be an ancestor of Homo erectus, and hence humans. But it could also simply be a close side-branch, an alternate evolutionary path. (Read more evolution stories.)

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