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Human ‘missing link’ fossils may be jumble of species

Human ‘missing link’ fossils may be jumble of species

New Scientist

Image: Lee Berger

One of our closest long-lost relatives may never have existed. The fossils of Australopithecus sediba, which promised to rewrite the story of human evolution, may actually be the remains of two species jumbled together.

The first fossils of A. sediba were found at Malapa, South Africa, in 2008. At 2 million years old, they show a mix of features, some similar to the ape-like australopithecines, others more like our genus, Homo. To its discoverers, this hotchpotch means A. sediba was becoming human, and that the Homogenus first evolved in South Africa, not east Africa as is generally thought.

But a new analysis suggests A. sediba didn’t exist. “I think there are two different hominin genera represented at Malapa,” says Ella Been at Tel Aviv University in Israel. One is an Australopithecus and one an early Homo. We can’t yet tell if the australopithecine remains are distinct enough to call them a new species, Been says. Read more on newscientist.com…