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Fossil from cave is a ‘missing link’
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Author:  Leaver [ Sun Apr 04, 2010 12:42 am ]
Post subject:  Fossil from cave is a ‘missing link’

Fossil from cave is a ‘missing link’

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/s ... 087050.ece

A FOSSIL skeleton of a child discovered in a cave system known as the Cradle of Humankind may represent a previously unknown stage in the evolution of man.

The skeleton, which is almost complete despite being 2m years old, is believed to belong to one of the hominid groups that includes humans. Hominid fossil finds are usually little more than small bone fragments. Scientists hope such a complete find will help them to work out what our ancestors looked like and to determine key dates in their evolution from ape-man to man-ape. Experts who have seen the skeleton says it resembles Homo habilis, the first species of advanced human.

The skeleton was found by Professor Lee Berger, reader in human evolution and the public understanding of science at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, as he explored cave systems in Sterkfontein, a Unesco world heritage site. The caves are the site of one of the world’s longest-running archeological excavations and are regarded as palaeontological treasure troves. Jacob Zuma, the South African president, has visited the university to view the find, which is to be announced this week.

The new fossil skeleton was found with a number of other partially complete fossils, encased within breccia sedimentary rock inside a limestone cave known as Malapa cave.

Scientists believe that a group of apelike hominids known as australopithecus, which first emerged in Africa around 3.9m years ago, gradually evolved into the first Homo species.

Over time the species lost its more apelike features as it started to stand upright and its brain capacity increased. Around 2.5m years ago Homo habilis, the first species to be described as distinctly human, began to appear, although only a handful of specimens have been found.

It is thought the new fossil will be identified as a species that fits somewhere between australopithecus and Homo habilis.

Dr Simon Underdown, an expert on human evolution at Oxford Brookes University, said: “A find like this could really increase our understanding of our early ancestors at a time when they first started to become recognisable as human.”

The discovery is the most important find from Sterkfontein since an almost complete fossil of a 3.3m-year-old australopithecus was found in 1994.

Author:  suzycue44 [ Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Fossil from cave is a ‘missing link’

Fascinating...thanks for this!

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