"Key" Human Ancestor Found: Fossils Link Apes, First Humans?
Australopithecus sediba had human-like face and could walk well upright but was apelike in other ways.
"We've never seen this combination of traits in any one [early human species]," study leader Lee Berger told the journal Science, where the new study is published today.
Found in the remnants of an underground cave network in South Africa, the partial Australopithecus sediba skeletons are believed to be from a roughly 30-year-old woman and an 8- to 13-year-old boy.
The pre-human pair, who may or may not have been related, apparently fell to their deaths into a chasm littered with corpses of saber-toothed cats and other predators.
The new species may be the wellspring—"sediba" in the local Sotho tribal language—from which our ancestors flowed, the report suggests.
Berger, of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, conjures a different metaphor.