Offbeat

Is Recently Discovered Fossil Ape or Man?

A South African cave was the site of the discovery of an ape like creature with human features. Scientists involved in the discovery believe that this fossil represents the most reasonable connection between ancient and modern humans.

If the scientific community at large accepts this claim, the human family tree needs to be shaken and reorganized with this new fossil species smack dab in the center. Given the moniker, Australopithecus sediba, it would gracefully dislodge and replace tool-making Homo habilis uncovered by Louis and Mary Leakey as the immediate human ancestor of the modern human being.

There is significant disagreement among paleontologists with Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, who discovered the fossil and published five articles about it in the journal, Science. Although all agree that Berger’s discovery is of great importance they do not concur that the fossils belong on the direct line of human evolution.

The new find is made even more exciting by the fact that the fossils are complete. The bones are very well preserved because the sediment they were swept into quickly fossilized them. According to dating based on rate of decay of uranium in the rock layer in which they lay, the fossils date back 1.977 million years.

Opponents of Berger’s theory argue that his discovery displays more the dynamic evolutionary process than a direct line of ancestry. Berger’s find is phenomenal by any standards because the new fossils are in novel combinations that have never been seen before. The hand is apelike with long, strong fingers suitable for climbing trees, and yet it is also very much like a human hand with a long thumb, that in combination with the fingers, could have held tools.

More time and study is needed to completely understand the ramifications of Berger’s incredible discovery and to place it where it aptly belongs in the train of human development, but all in all, it is a very exciting find.

 

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