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Where Lived: Southern Africa (South Africa)

When Lived: Between 1.95 and 1.78 million years ago

The recently discovered species, Australopithecus sediba, is notable for its mixture of primitive and derived characteristics. Australopithecus sediba has more derived features that are also found in the genus Homo than other australopithecines, linking it closely with our own genus. These links indicate that Au. sediba may reveal information about the origins and ancestor of the genus Homo. Functional changes in the pelvis of Au. sediba point to the evolution of upright walking, while other parts of the skeleton retain features found in other australopithecines. Measurements of the strength of the humerus and femur show that Au. sediba had a more human-like pattern of locomotion than a fossil attributed to Homo habilis. These features suggest that Au. sediba walked upright on a regular basis and that changes in the pelvis occurred before other changes in the body that are found in later specimens of Homo. The Australopithecus sediba skull has several derived features, such as relatively small premolars and molars, and facial features that are more similar to those in Homo. However, despite these changes in the pelvis and skull, other parts of Au. sediba skeleton shows a body similar to that of other australopithecines with long upper limbs and a small cranial capacity. The combination of primitive and derived traits in Australopithecus sediba shows part of the transition from a form adapted to partial arboreality to one primarily adapted to bipedal walking. The fossils also show that changes in the pelvis and the dentition occurred before changes in limb proportions or cranial capacity.


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© Human Origins Program

Supplier: Human Origins Program NMNH

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