New humanoid species found

2010-04-08 16:08

London - Two partial skeletons unearthed in a South African cave belong to a previously unclassified species of pre-human dating back almost two million years and may shed new light on human evolution, scientists said on Thursday.

Fossils of the bones of a young male and an adult female suggest the newly documented species, called Australopithecus sediba, walked upright and shared many physical traits with the earliest known human Homo species.

The finding of the pre-human, or hominid, fossils - which scientists say are between 1.78 and 1.95 million years old - was published in the journal Science and may answer some key questions about where humans came from.

Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, who led the team that found the fossils in August 2008, said the team were hoping to reveal a possible two further skeletons from the same site.

He was reluctant to define the new species as a "missing link" in human evolutionary history, but said it would "contribute enormously to our understanding of what was going on at that moment where the early members of the genus Homo emerged".

Powerful hands

"Australopithecus sediba is undoubtedly a highly transitional species with a mosaic of characters that are shared by later hominids... in the line of the genus homo, as well as features that are shared by earlier hominids," he told reporters in a telephone briefing.

Many experts believe the human genus Homo evolved from the Australopithecus genus about two million years ago. One of the best-known pre-humans is "Lucy", the skeleton of a species called Australopithecus afarensis, and this new species is about one million years younger than "Lucy", the scientists said.

The fossils, a juvenile male and an adult female, were found in the Malapa caves in the "Cradle of Humankind" World Heritage Site, 40km outside Johannesburg.

The species had long arms, like an ape, short powerful hands, a very advanced pelvis and long legs capable of striding and possibly running like a human, the researchers said.

The scientists estimate both hominids were about 1.27m, although the child would have grown taller.

The brain size of the younger one was probably between 420 and 450 cubic centimetres, which is small when compared with the human brain of about 1 200 to 1 600 cubic centimetres, they said.

"These fossils give us an extraordinarily detailed look into a new chapter of human evolution... when hominids made the committed change from dependency on life in the trees to life on the ground," said Berger.

Paul Dirks of James Cook University in Australia, who also worked on the study, said he and a team of researchers from around the world identified the fossils of at least 25 other species of animals in the cave, including sabre-toothed cats, a wildcat, a brown hyena, a wild dog, antelopes and a horse.

  • Slim - 2010-04-08 16:22

    Fantastic!!!! What great news in troubled times - maybe this will lead to more tourists visiting SA

  • karen - 2010-04-08 16:24

    Refreshing - some news other than politics... Although I sometimes wonder if we are any more advanced than the beings that once carried the historic skeletons...

  • Robert - 2010-04-08 16:27

    Such discoveries are always fascinating, yet the more that is found, the more questions there are too. It already looks as if there was once far more species and sub-species of early man wandering the earth, yet only one survives today. I find that intriguing when you consider that for many other larger mammal species, there are often multiple sub-species.

  • Hadley - 2010-04-08 16:28

    Where does that leave us who believe that God created us

  • chaz - 2010-04-08 16:31

    Thank god no politics

  • m0jo - 2010-04-08 16:44

    So their ancestors are monkeys....nice!

  • Reinardt Bronkhorst - 2010-04-08 16:48

    What is it about these scientists that they discover bones and suddenly they know so much about this new species? Imagine in ten a million years from now, they discover the skeleton of the worlds smallest man. What suddenly then we will be a species of super small humans who licked our food off the ground...? Please people, get real. These are all isolated finds that could be nothing more than 2 freakishly strange people who lived on the earth. Find like a thousand similar ones and then we have a scientific conversation!

  • MJ - 2010-04-08 17:00

    They're saying that in the same cave they found a whole lot of modern animals like a brown hyena, antelopes and a horse? Also quite funny that the 'smaller' skeleton had a 'smaller' brain size.

  • Johan - 2010-04-08 17:00

    Ag no really!?! Where do all these people come from? EVERYONE knows the earth is only... hmmm... 6000 years old - after all the bible says so!

  • Maree van Staden - 2010-04-08 17:05

    Why is it that they never find complete skeletons of these "Human-like" species...?

  • Excellent - 2010-04-08 17:10

    Another notch proving evolution is correct! Well done to the dedicated people who strive to highlight our past evolutionary history...may all religously clouded minds please refrain from even commenting on this...accept it and move on, just like the Earth is round has been accepted.

  • John Book - 2010-04-08 17:28

    Well, claims like "between 1.78 and 1.95 million years old" should be taken with a considerable amount of salt. The answers to our origin as mankind is not in science but in Genesis

  • rob - 2010-04-08 17:38

    cmon man. I still see monkeys and goats and sharks etc. we are a unique species created by God almighty.there are 8400000 species of life. the soul evolves. it can take on any form according to how we mould our life in this lifetime. according to our good or bad behaviour/ activities. whatever we are attached to or strongly desire in this life, the all merciful Lord will fulfill that desure and give us such a body in our next life. for instance if you want to flout your body, that means standing for all to see. then you may get a life as a tree, or if you love eating meat He will give you a body of a lion or tiger. simple as that.

  • Puzzle - 2010-04-08 17:39

    From a partial skeleton they scientifically proved that it is your ancestor, how they walked, and that they invented the missionary position! I like how accurate they become: "between 1.78 and 1.95 million years old". Surely they did not find a brown hyena, wild dog, etc, but some half-dog-half coelecanth, or did they evolve faster end better than humans? Long, long ago there were rocks which turned to soup. The soup came alive and formed cells which formed banannas and humans and they lived happily ever after.

  • LC - 2010-04-08 18:01

    Interesting that none of the others: "sabre-toothed cats, a wildcat, a brown hyena, a wild dog, antelopes and a horse" have managed to "evolve" over the last couple million year to become highly sophisticated species writing books, doing maths and inventing electricity. Evolution is a joke!

  • umzingeli - 2010-04-08 18:18

    fantastic! kewl name

  • cliffordS - 2010-04-08 19:33

    Wow wits must be experiencing a slump with their scientist believing Lucy was real. I wonder how many power tools they used to let Lucy sorry IT walk up straight. No mention of the eugenics fruit of evolution. Do you think IT designed and build the 200 million year old steel coffee cup they found in the coal mines? They should look for coco in IT’s teeth. At least they have something more than one tooth to build an entire man, hey Nebraska man. Maybe IT and Piltdown man, Nebraska man, Java Man, Orce man, etc are related or the t-rex dinosaur bird published in National Geographic November 1999 pages 98 – 107. Even catholic’s think Piltdown man was great, Teilhard de Chardin actually helped to “put” the missing pieces together…and you thought they where only interested in one thing….Ireland. I can not believe this joke is reported as news.

  • Pieter - 2010-04-08 19:55

    People should stop to always worry or ask is this the "missing link" there is no missing link as this would suggests that evolution is a stop...go..process, in this view there are actually millions of missing links and it is impossible that all of these could have been preserved. What is more remarkable and amazing is that some of these fossils were actually preserved, and investigation of all the Genuses and Spesies, actually tells us about our amazing ancesters. The closest a person possibly can come to the "missing link" in the eyes of the normal publick may be Darwinius masillae, which is something between an ape and a lemur, but again this is just one form of the various ancesteral ranges of this species. Congratulations to the team!!

  • Pieter - 2010-04-08 21:02

    It is really sad that a discovery of this magnitude falls into obscurity because the political articles grabs all the attention. I am so sick and tired of politics. No comments on this discovery??

  • Errol clark-halkett - 2010-04-08 21:58

    This just confirms the writtings of egdar Cayce on the first wave of humanoids that came to earth they were known as humananimals. Like the greek mythology gods and the Zodia symbols of these. Its also confirms the trnslation done from the sumerrian tablets that Zacheria sitchen did in his books on the Annunaki, and the story told in the epic of gilgamish. We must not strive to find the missing link as the scientist predict we are the missing link in the humanoid species on earth.

  • The Easter Bunny - 2010-04-08 22:55

    Now lets wait for the Bible Bashing loonies to crawl out of the woodwork...

  • Pieter - 2010-04-08 23:39

    Mmmm, interesting, however we find these type of pre-humans and neanderthals every day in South Africa. One had a row with BBC today, another one was on eNews yesterday and another one has died recently. Nothing new to find some of these extinct species still ALIVE in South Africa. Forget the Coelacanth, the humans here are from an era before the Stone age

  • Fran - 2010-04-09 08:25

    Hi, Peter...your take on the "pre-human" situation definitely hits the nail on the head. Bravo!!!!

  • aajj@easterbunny - 2010-04-09 08:29

    I'll oblige :) I wonder what the saber tooth tiger turned in to? They have three - "links" as (reported by the media in the same time) - clearly all three couldn't become human. did one of these three maybe ..gasp... just go extinct?

  • Stuart - 2010-04-09 08:50

    Nice find, I wouldn't say it "rewrites the textbooks" though. It is just another clue in human evolution.
    Also, there isn't any one "Missing Link". We have a fair idea of the evolution of our species already, any new finds get slotted into that. New finds are also given new names, under either the genus "Homo" or "Australopithecus", so it seems to us, because of our arrogant labelling system that there were a huge amount of different Hominid species, even though there probably weren't.

  • Oh No - 2010-04-09 08:51

    bwahahahahahaha, oh my goodness, religious people are ridiculous sometimes. Why dont you people open your eyes, start thinking for yourselves and not refer absolutely everything back to the bible. Seriously..... lol

  • Giles K - 2010-04-09 09:18

    Any thinking, sober, rational minded person or scientist will tell you that it takes more faith to believe in macro evolution than it does to believe in a pre-existent, eternal and sovereign God that created mankind in his own image as an act of love and to glorify himself. The human heart is so opposed to the idea of being answerable to a Creator God that it will believe anything to remain independent of Him. People are so desperate to believe in evolution that they cling to a smattering of insubstantial and unconvincing evidence in the fossil record to prove that man is no more than a random collection of matter. Or they are simply ignorant and have sucked up the greatest hoax invented by man. How hopeless.

  • aajj - 2010-04-09 09:29

    It is interesting how the news misleads people I'm glad to see they changed from the previous heading new human species found - now that would have been something, also all the international media is calling this a missing link which even scientists aggree is not the case.

  • Nico - 2010-04-09 10:11

    What an awesome discovery.

    BTW, religion and science is not the same thing. Stop mixing the two. Archaeology is a very thorough science, but it doesn't tell you how to live your live. The bible tells you how to live your live very well, but doesnt do so good on the science front.

  • cthar@Giles K - 2010-04-09 10:15

    Any thinking, sober, rational minded person or scientist will tell you that it takes more faith to believe in a Creator than it does to believe in a pre-existent, eternal and omnipotent system of natural selection that shaped mankind into what we are as an act of evolution and random events. The human heart is so opposed to the idea of being answerable to pure chance that we exist that it will believe anything to remain independent of dumb luck. People are so desperate to believe in religion that they cling to a smattering of insubstantial and unconvincing evidence in a well-edited book to prove that man is no more than a fantasy of a bearded man. Or they are simply ignorant and have sucked up the greatest money making scheme invented by man. How hopeless.

  • ChrisR - 2010-04-09 11:00

    So, God created the earth 6000 years ago, and buried fossils for us to find that are millions of years old... Why? Was God joking? Is it a cosmic game? Was he bored?? Hmm, I Wonder...

  • Craig - 2010-04-09 20:33

    As an archaeologist, geologist and and anthropologist, the whole point is to discover and explore - like doing a huge jigsaw puzzle! No scientist ever said that we were descended from these creatures, it is a possability, but there is a huge gap in the timing - how did the Australo's change into Homo's - no one knows yet! Thats why we explore and discover - thats the point!Why they only find partial remains is because of the raveges of time and initial predation - Well done Guys and Girls - wish I was on the team with you!To all the religious people - how does this diminish your idea of a creator? I dont understand your reasoning. For all any of us know, god was an alien who was doing genetic engineering here on earth - like we do with GM crops and Dolly the sheep.... Even that should not diminish your creator theory!

  • Jenny G - 2010-04-09 20:34

    I love how all the bible bashers are also archeological experts & can comment on the thoroughness / lack thereof done by the WITS team after only reading 1 article! Amazing!
    The skeletons were discovered in August 2008, which means that the research team have been working on it for 1,5 years. They did not just suck things out of their thumbs!
    And yes, it is an amazing discovery. We need more positive things like this in the country.

  • @Pieter - 2010-04-09 20:48


  • Nico vdb - 2010-04-09 23:30

    Time is relative. From the viewpoint of the beholder, if the beholder is moving at the speed of light, time is zero. Who was observing creation in the first six days before the calendar of man started? Where was the earth turning around the sun anyway before the sun started to shine in the fourth "day" of creation? When the universe started to expand at the speed of light, how much time lapsed after it already expanded more than one billion kilometers? One second? Even if light travels at the speed of 300 000 kilometers per second, for the traveler at that speed, time is zero. Even if we observe that light traveling for ten minutes,the traveler himself does not experience that time. So where comes the 6000 year idea from? Limited human stationary thinking. But the universe was created at the speed of light and not at the speed of our earth turning around its own axle.

  • Jenny - 2010-04-10 08:09

    @ChrisR, how can you actually believe that those fossils are millions of years old when scientists admit that radio carbon dating is inaccurate? If they are dating something as being older than 6000 years, then it is clear that the science is flawed. More realistically, these fossils are probably from apes that lived 4 to 5 thousand years ago that were wiped out in the Great Flood. You really need to read up on the Holy Bible

  • human - 2010-04-10 10:49

    another set of pre-historic monkey bones unearthed. if they could found the foot-bones they'll see the opposable thumb that all primates have, but these evolutionist would so love their ancestors to be monkeys, so be it your ancestors are apes but mine where human. look at the form and size of the skull and compare it to a ape's skull and what do you see another monkey!! Also why do all evolutionists think that all Christians think that the world is 6000 years old?? I'm a Christian and believe it to be 4,7 bilion years old. The Bible said a 1000 years can be LIKE a day for the Lord not IS. a thousand was used as a simile because people in those days hav'nt even quantified a million or a billion in their language but a 1000 they had and understood it in the context that a day for the Lord could be MANY years for us. So to all the atheists go ahead keep on digging up ape bones and call them gramps.

  • lee - 2010-04-10 17:05

    Regardless of this. The bible bashers are far from evolved. Am sure their will be a verse in the bible of this find. When the bible bashers said the earth was flat. A clever person looked at the shadow on the moon. when a bolt of lighting came from the sky, they screamed angry god, clever person wanted to find out why. Today we just let them excist in our world of science. They pay tax after all. So let them spew out some verses for they are the chosen one's. Thank GOD he made clever people that have made are lives better.

  • Richard - 2010-04-11 13:04

    The god of the day is merely a reflection of our current level of sophistication, which is why we have had so many of them through the ages. it has been said that the religion of one era is the literary entertainment of the next - evolution a joke? yes, its about as funny as the rising and the setting of the sun. Being fully and observing what science has learnt so far about our universe and reality it is now clear that we are, in the scheme of things, considerably less significant than a speck of dust floating on the breeze yet we are the seeds of God, blossoming consciousness becoming aware of being conscious and this unfolding miracle we call existence. Religion is, and always has been, a tool to herd the masses into thinking and behaving as those behind it all desire. The fossils and manuscripts we find are all pieces of a puzzle, of a fascinating history we are piecing together, is our purpose here to live in the doom and gloom of guilt for being human or are we here to live in the fullest most conscious way in which we are capable? Either way, we will advance and we will learn new things, hopefully we can bend our minds to find ways to improve our coexistence rather than dwell on things that divide.

  • George - 2010-04-11 14:43

    What appears to be a pre-human? Small brain.. where exactly did they find this? I am really concerned. Nobody messes with my late inlaws!

  • JGREEFF - 2010-04-12 08:43

    Luckily I know God made me. It's so funny to know that there are people that think they ancestors were monkeys. Maybe they have a missing link or two.

  • Luce - 2010-04-12 13:23

    JGREEFF, perhaps you should try and be a more open-minded. Not all religions believe in the same story of creation as the Bible explains. In fact, there are older religions who have spoken about the theory of evolution for centuries. At the end of the day none of us here today were here at the time of human creation so we cannot say what is or is not true, even if that what our religion text tells us to believe.

  • Riaan - 2010-04-12 15:44

    I dont get these people laughing at christians and there opinions. Im not very religious but its only a monkey that believes he comes from a monkey. Seriously, you dont want to believe the bible but you want to believe a scientist. But hey, if you say you come from an ape then maybe you do!!

  • Eja - 2010-04-12 21:34

    @ all those 'self made persons'
    Einstein said; 'Science without Religion is lame and Religion without science is blind.'

    I hope that this fossil find will show that there are indeed another species that we have not acknowledged up to now.
    The missing link is not within the same species - it is between two or more different species under the same 'heading' of Homo sapiens.
    As a last thought to those descendants from Apes... Those of us who come from God has got the ability to extend ourselves beyond the limitation of the small environment that an animal finds himself in.
    So shut your face up about my knowledge - its not based on a airy fairy tale - I take my breath from a very real Nature!

  • Rod - 2010-04-13 10:16

    Why is always 1 or 2 of a species? Find a whole family or tribe and then start drawing conclusions!

  • me - 2010-04-13 11:21

    I wonder how many of these people claiming that they're descended from a mud puppet (as described in genesis) actually have a degree or have actually bothered to study anything other than the ingredients on a boerewors packet? Yet they come in here blustering about how god did it and how it couldn't possibly be right and ooooh what did the sabretooths evolve into? Well maybe if you knew something about evolution instead of hearsay that you got on internet, you'd have a clue. Yay Wits!

  • mud puppet with few degrees - 2010-04-13 11:53

    @me, maybe you should start doing a little research yourself and find out that you don't know what you don't know...

  • Big Al - 2010-04-13 12:03

    @me Well said - but I'm really deeply saddened to see the sheer depth of ignorance around the facts of evolution. Instead of reading some of the facts from well respected men and women in the scientific community, they'd rather take the word of some bronze age desert dweller who thought the earth was flat and women were lower than a horse in their heirarchy. It was Douglas Adams who said "Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"

  • Andrew - 2010-04-13 12:11

    Interesting that this discovery inspires the polarisation into two camps- the evolutionists and the creationists. The one group believes (with no scientific proof)that life developed spontaneously from dead material. The other group believes that God created everything. Both are believers. Both think they have convincing proof. Both think the opposing group is foolish. The real question is: What are the eternal consequences if ...
    1 The evolutionists are right, or
    2 if the creationists are right?
    Our eternal destiny depends on the correct answer to this question. I know what I have chosen to believe...

  • Steve - 2010-04-13 12:11

    Humans are simply a type of clever monkey. Get over it.

    I am in awe of the wonder and spiritual significance of matter arranging, through natural processes, into more and more complex forms through specific chemical reactions. Examining the code of life written in DNA shows us that all life on earth is related from a single origin. The logical reasoning and evidence behind evolution has not revealed any flaws in over a hundred years. Evolution is fact. It is THE best explanation for the origins of life that we have. The amount of good quality corroborating evidence is simply massive.

    Stop being so weak minded that you cannot accept that the complexity of life is emergent and not designed. The apparent simplicity of basic matter is actually extremely complex beyond human-measure. That more complexity has emerged from this is no surprise.